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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
4 May 2005



Division for Palestinian Rights
Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine
MONTHLY MEDIA MONITORING REVIEW
April 2005



Monthly Highlights

    · President Bush reiterates to PM Sharon visiting in Texas that Israel should meet its Road Map obligations, including regarding settlements in the West Bank (11 April)

    · James D. Wolfensohn appointed as the Quartet's Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement (14 April)

    · The PA reforms security services under Interior Minister Nasser Yousef (14 April)

    · EU establishes European Union Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EU COPPS) (20 April)

    · Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin visits Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (27, 28 and 29 April)

    · Hundreds of Israelis break into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem (28 April)


1

In the village of Asira near Nablus, Israeli forces fired live bullets and tear gas at demonstrators protesting against IDF roadblocks. No casualties were reported. ( www.palestine-info.co.uk)

In the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, west of Ramallah, the IDF arrested two Palestinians alleged to have been involved in a fire bomb attack on a highway between Jerusalem and the “Modi’in” settlement on 30 March, where three Israelis were injured. (www.idf.il)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would prefer not to demolish homes in the Gaza Strip settlements vacated under the disengagement plan, but he conditioned leaving the 21 settlements intact on their orderly handover to the Palestinian Authority. “I would be happy not to raze the [settler] communities. … This requires coordination with the Palestinians,” Mr. Sharon told Yediot Ahronot in an interview. (AFP, Reuters)

2

PA President Mahmoud Abbas placed the security services in Ramallah on a “state of alert” following an incident in which militants fired into the air inside his headquarters compound, officials said. The move came hours after Mr. Abbas dismissed West Bank national security chief General Haj Ismail Jaber over the shooting incident which took place late on 30 March inside the muqataa that houses Mr. Abbas’ headquarters. Mr. Abbas also fired Ramallah security chief Yunis al-Has, while Intelligence Chief Tawfik Tirawi handed in his resignation, which he subsequently rescinded. (AP)

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier urged Israel and the Palestinians to take further steps to maintain moves toward peace. “There is a new dynamic toward peace, but it is a fragile dynamic,” Mr. Barnier said after meeting with visiting PA Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa. “Concrete gestures are needed,” Mr. Barnier said. He praised Israel for its “courageous engagement” to withdraw from Gaza, but added, “there are other steps that must be taken,” including the transfer of security control over West Bank cities to the Palestinians, the release of more Palestinian prisoners and halting the building of new settlements in the West Bank. Mr. Al-Kidwa said, “Israel must withdraw to the positions that it occupied before September 2000 and it must put a stop to colonization and the building of the wall”. (AP)

3

PA President Abbas named Maj.-Gen. Nidal el-Asouli, senior commander from Nablus, as the interim national security commander to replace General Haj Ismail Jaber. (AP, Palestine Media Centre, Xinhua)

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia voiced pessimism about the revival of the peace process, accusing Prime Minister Sharon of pursuing unilateral policies. “Sharon doesn't want to see the international legitimate solutions being implemented. He implements unilateral actions under the solution that he wants only,” said Mr. Qureia after meeting with China’s Middle East Envoy Wang Shijie in Ramallah. He added, “Apart from a unilateral step to pull out of Gaza due to begin in July under Sharon's disengagement plan, he also took a unilateral decision to annex Jerusale Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia voiced pessimism about the revival of the peace process, accusing Prime Minister Sharon of pursuing unilateral policies. “Sharon doesn't want to see the international legitimate solutions being implemented. He implements unilateral actions under the solution that he wants only,” said Mr. Qureia after meeting with China’s Middle East Envoy Wang Shijie in Ramallah. He added, “Apart from a unilateral step to pull out of Gaza due to begin in July under Sharon's disengagement plan, he also took a unilateral decision to annex Jerusalem and keep construction of the Apartheid separation wall in the West Bank.” He described the US position of understanding Israel’s need to keep the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as “ridiculing the vision of President George W. Bush to establish a viable independent Palestinian State geographically connected.” Mr. Qureia called on the Quartet to stop the expansion of settlements and make Israel’s pullout from Gaza a part of the Road Map aiming at an independent Palestinian State living in peace with Israel. The Chinese Envoy said that China highly appreciated the Palestinian leadership's efforts to revive the peace process and that Israel needed to implement the understandings and agreements that were reached with the Palestinians, adding that China would continue to support the Palestinians. (Xinhua)

The Secretary-General named Karen Koning AbuZayd Acting Commissioner-General of UNRWA. Ms. AbuZayd had been Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA since August 2000. ( UNRWA press release HQ/G/10/2005)

4

Prime Minister Sharon pledged to push ahead with the expansion of the “Ma’aleh Adumim” settlement towards Jerusalem telling lawmakers at a closed-door session, “I don't see construction in the [so-called ‘E-1’] area as a serious problem; we must link Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim.” Commenting on Mr. Sharon’s remarks, Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Sha’ath said, “he [Sharon] wants to withdraw from Gaza to impose his control on the West Bank, especially Jerusalem”. (Reuters)

Leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad vowed to defy PA President Abbas' bid to disarm hundreds of their gunmen wanted by Israel and to integrate militants into the PA. They rejected Mr. Abbas' efforts outright, whereas Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades appeared divided on how to respond. (Reuters)

Israel will start sending approximately 10,000 tonnes of rubbish to a West Bank dump near the northern city of Nablus every month. Environmental experts told Ha’aretz that that would compromise one of the largest freshwater sources in the region, the mountain aquifer, which is the main Palestinian water source. The move contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international treaties which prohibit Israel, as an occupying Power, from making use of the territory unless it benefits the local population. Ha’aretz reported that using the West Bank rather than Israel would be cheaper. The dump site, which is currently under construction, is an old Palestinian quarry known to Palestinians as Abu Shusha, and to Israelis as “Kedumim”. The IDF’s civil administration for the West Bank had called for the construction to be halted, but there had been no immediate comment from Israeli officials. (AFP)

Gaza settler leaders said a fair payout and a united move could defuse resistance to the pullout, which was set for the summer. The settlers were currently slated to get nearly US $900 million, expected to be about $200,000 to $500,000 per family. Settler representatives would propose to Prime Minster Sharon on their first meeting with him that the “Gush Katif” residents (about 7,000 people) be moved as a group to the nearby coastal area of Nitzanim, north of the Israeli town of Ashkelon. An Israeli Government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Sharon wanted to encourage settlers to move in groups. He said the Government had offered the residents of “Neve Dekalim”, the largest settlement in “Gush Katif” with 500 families, to move to the Israeli town of Nitzan, east of Nitzanim. (AP)

Israeli security officials renewed warnings that Jewish extremists might carry out attacks to disrupt the Gaza pullout, including firing shoulder-launched missiles into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's walled Old City. That weekend police had begun tightening security around the site and cars passing through Lion's Gate, the main entry for vehicles into the Old City, were being searched. (AP)

The families of the Palestinians who were deported in 2002 by Israel from the Church of the Nativity to Spain under a deal organized a sit-in to protest the decision of Spain’s anti-terrorism court to summon their sons for questioning. The families considered their sons’ investigation a response to Israeli pressure. The families complained of not having been informed of the deal's details and conditions, on the basis of which their sons had been deported to Spain. (Xinhua)

PA President Abbas issued a decree to set up two special committees in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank giving each two weeks to resolve the issue of about 530 militants wanted by Israel for alleged involvement in attacks on Israelis. The presidential decree said the wanted men would be disarmed and recruited into the PA security forces and civilian departments. (Xinhua)

US State Department officials expressed displeasure with Israel's decision to build more housing units in the “Ma'ale Adumim” settlement with the aim of connecting it to East Jerusalem. They said the matter would be raised in talks between Prime Minister Sharon's Adviser Dov Weissglas and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat condemned the project and said, “If carried out, this [‘E-1’] project will destroy the peace process and will undermine prospects for any future negotiations on the final status agreements. We call upon the US to stop this project if they want to give the peace process a chance,” he said. (Ha’aretz)

At a press conference in Ramallah, PA Prime Minister Qureia announced that the “.ps” suffix had officially been tacked on to the addresses of Internet sites operating from or belonging to the Palestinian Authority. (Ha’aretz)

5

The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for carrying out two separate armed attacks against IDF soldiers and settlers in the southern Gaza Strip. The group’s spokesman told reporters that The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for carrying out two separate armed attacks against IDF soldiers and settlers in the southern Gaza Strip. The group’s spokesman told reporters that militants of the group blew up a roadside bomb under an IDF bulldozer on the border between Rafah and Egypt. He added that the militants also shot and seriously wounded an Israeli who was working near the “Morag” settlement near Rafah. (Xinhua)

The Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, said that Palestinians were ready to oppose Jewish extremists’ plans aimed at harming the Al-Aqsa Mosque and were ready to defend it. He described Israel’s plans to protect the Mosque as inadequate. (Xinhua)

Israel would ask the United States for funds to finance the Gaza Strip withdrawal, Israel’s Vice Premier Shimon Peres said before going on a trip to Washington. (AP)

Israel assured the US Government that no construction was imminent under a plan to expand the “Ma’aleh Adumim” settlement towards East Jerusalem, Israeli Government sources said. “There are no plans to invite construction bids in 2005. It is not at an operative stage,” one of the sources quoted Housing Minister Isaac Herzog as saying. (Reuters)

PA security sources said that Israel intended to remove the X-ray-based security equipment at the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, at the request of the PA. (Xinhua)

A senior PA security official said that two committees formed by PA President Abbas were ready to act within the coming two weeks to disarm wanted militants. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, however, reiterated that their militants would not surrender their weapons. (Xinhua)

Israeli troops beat five unarmed Palestinian traffic policemen in Hebron and shackled and hauled them away in an army jeep. According to an Associated Press photographer who witnessed the incident, about 12 Israeli soldiers approached the policemen and ordered them to leave the area. When the policemen refused, the soldiers began to remove them by force, at times beating them, dragging one policeman on the ground while kicking him, and hitting another on the head with a rifle butt. One policeman was seen with a swollen red eye and another with blood dripping from his mouth. An Israeli military official present at the scene said that the Palestinian policemen were not allowed to be in the area where the beating had taken place, and that they had refused to leave despite repeated demands for them to do so. Hebron’s police chief Awni Samara said the policemen had been in the Palestinian-controlled area of city and had not been violating any agreements with Israel. (AP, BBC, Ynet)

A report published by the PA Ministry of Prisoners Affairs said more than 3,500 Palestinian children had been arrested by the IDF since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000, of which 310 were still imprisoned in Israeli jails under inhumane conditions. (WAFA)

After meeting with his Cabinet, President Bush After meeting with his Cabinet, President Bush told reporters in response to a question regarding the Israeli Prime Minister’s decision to expand the largest settlement in the West Bank “Ma’aleh Adumim”, “Our position is very clear that the Road Map is important, and the Road Map calls for no expansion of the settlements.” (AFP, Reuters, www.whitehouse.gov)

The European Union expressed concern over plans by Israel to build 3,500 new housing units in the “Ma'aleh Adumim” settlement and to expand two other settlement blocks in the West Bank. The EU said it deplored “the negative impact” that the plans would have at a time “when a genuine window of opportunity exists to relaunch the peace process.” (AP, www.eu2005.lu)

6

The IDF arrested a wanted Palestinian near Ramallah. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF destroyed a Palestinian house in the village of Bir Nabala near East Jerusalem. (WAFA)

Three Palestinians were wounded, one of them seriously, when Israeli security guards opened fire on protesters at the separation wall in the village of Rantis, north-west of Ramallah. The security guards fired warning shots in the air when the protesters threw stones at construction workers and then aimed at the protesters. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The IDF said Palestinian gunmen have opened fire at its troops patrolling along the border with Egypt near Rafah. No injuries or damage were reported. (www.idf.il)

An Israeli soldier sustained light to moderate wounds in a clash with Palestinian gunmen near Jenin. (Ynet)

In Hebron, settlers pelted Israeli soldiers and police with rocks and eggs as the troops put up a fence to protect a Palestinian home from settler attack. A police officer broke his arm, and nine settlers were detained for questioning. The house, which overlooks the Jewish enclave of “Avraham Avinu” in downtown Hebron, was emptied on IDF orders shortly after the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. After a Supreme Court ruling reversed the army order, which allowed Palestinians to return to the building, police had maintained a regular guard to protect the home against attacks. Last month, masked settlers attacked the building with sledgehammers and injured a policeman filming the attack. (AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A plan, called “disengagement”, was presented to Prime Minister Sharon, under which Israeli police and soldiers would cast a wide security net around the Gaza Strip in the summer for the evacuation of the 21 settlements there, a senior Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity said. The plan, which was prepared by Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, would be adopted in case of what the source called a “worst-case scenario” of resistance from settlers and violence by Palestinians. It was to be presented to the Cabinet for approval in the next few weeks. (AP)

PA President Abbas welcomed President Bush’s statement in which he expressed US commitment to the Road Map and demanded that Israel halt all settlement activities on Palestinian land, an official spokesperson said. PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat also welcomed the US President's statement saying, “I urge President Bush to exert every possible effort to stop the settlement activities and the wall in order to maintain and sustain his vision of a two-state solution.” (AP, Al-Quds)

In an interview with The Associated Press , Secretary of State Rice said the United States was opposed to “wanton destruction” of homes in the Gaza Strip settlements under Israel’s disengagement plan and would assist the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. (AP, www.state.gov)

Senior PA officials presented a plan to US and Israeli officials for coordinating the disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank. A source involved in the contacts told Ha’aretz that the plan included coordinating the handover of security to the PA's national security force; ensuring a complete ceasefire during the evacuation process; and a Palestinian commitment to prevent shooting at Israeli targets outside the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian side demanded Israel’s agreement to equip Palestinian security forces with weapons and other equipment necessary for imposing law and order in Gaza. They said that during the last four years, PA security services lost their combat capabilities and that at present the armed organizations had far more weapons than the PA forces had. (Ha’aretz)

PA President Abbas had requested a team to prepare position papers on civilian issues related to the disengagement plan. One of the papers prepared raised reservations about the route of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing. Using Egyptian maps and documents from the time of the post-1948 truce, the Palestinian team found that the border should at least be 170 metres and perhaps as much as two kilometres north of where it currently ran. The donor nations and the World Bank had expressed readiness to finance the construction of new terminals for the passage of people and goods at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing and Rafah, on condition that the two sides reach an agreement on the location of the terminals, their operation and other issues. Informal contacts had already been conducted between the two sides and a decision was expected in the coming days. (Ha’aretz)

In a survey by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, a projection predicted that Palestinians living in Israel would make up a quarter of the country's population by the year 2025. The population of Israel in 20 years was predicted at 9.2 million, of which 2.3 million would be Arabs and 6.5 million Jews. Israeli Arabs currently made up about 19 per cent of the population. (AP)

Palestinian experts and specialists said the Israeli X-ray-based screening machine “axtrai” used by the IDF for searching Palestin Palestinian experts and specialists said the Israeli X-Ray-based screening machine “axtrai” used by the IDF for searching Palestinian passengers in Rafah constituted a “war crime” and a “breach of international law”. In a workshop organized by the Woman Medical and Information Center in Gaza, specialists said that the use of such machines posed a serious and dangerous threat to health as it produced different kinds of radiation. (WAFA)

In a report entitled “Review of the Humanitarian Situation in the occupied Palestinian territory for 2004,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated, “The humanitarian situation in 2004 remained vulnerable,” noting that there had been no significant easing of the underlying causes of the crisis – the closure system of checkpoints and roadblocks established by Israel. The report found that about half of the Palestinians lived below the poverty line of US $2.10 per day, compared to just 22 per cent four years earlier, with some 560,000 people, or 16 per cent, mired in deep poverty. (UN News Centre)

The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, announced that Palestinian officials inaugurated a US-funded 500-cubic-metre water reservoir that would triple the amount of clean and safe water available to families in Anza village, south of Jenin. A total of US$200,000 was provided by the United States through USAID for the construction of the reservoir that would provide each citizen with at least 60 litres of water a day. (WAFA)

On his third visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory/PA in nine months, the American actor Richard Gere told Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom that Palestinians and Israelis must put the past behind them and take advantage of what he called a “special moment” to make peace. (The Independent)

Actor Ben Kingsley and two US philanthropic organizations unveiled an Arabic version of the 1982 Academy Award winning film “Gandhi”, hoping to bring the legendary Indian leader’s message of non-violent resistance to Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps. The project was sponsored by two US-based organizations, the Skoll Foundation and the Global Catalyst Foundation. The organizations planned to offer free screenings throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to distribute DVD copies to local civic groups. The film would also be shown to Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. (AP)

7

Israel TV reported that Israeli security stepped up its level of alert in Jerusalem. The station said the Shin Bet security agency received warnings that Jewish extremists would try to attack the Al-Aqsa Mosque in an effort to protest the pullout from Gaza. Extremists planned to bring thousands of demonstrators to the site on 10 April and Israeli police had decided to close the hilltop to visitors that day. Israel Radio said the closure of the site would apply to Jews and Christians but not to Muslims, who could pray on that day. Rabbi David Elboim said he was confident that at least 10,000 Jews would gather at the site when the Jewish month of Nissan began that day. The police banned the demonstration. ( AP)

PA President Abbas accused Israel of not respecting the commitments it had pledged at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit on 8 February 2005. After meeting with US Security Coordinator for the Middle East Lt.-Gen. William Ward, Mr. Abbas told reporters Israel had not fulfilled promises to hand over security responsibilities of West Bank cities to the PA. (Xinhua)

Two Israeli extremists who were alleged to have planted fake explosives close to a market in the centre of Jerusalem had been arrested, Israeli police said. The suspects were accused of having placed casings with electrical wires near the Mahane Yehuda market, which attracts thousands of shoppers each day, and has been the site of previous explosions. Investigators said the suspects were trying to stir up tension ahead of the planned pullout from the Gaza Strip. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Four members of the Abdalla family from Deir Ballut were wounded by IDF fire when they arrived to cultivate their land near the separation wall in Nablus, witnesses said. One member was in critical condition, two were stable and the fourth was lightly wounded. (WAFA)

A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian militants exploded in a cemetery in the Israeli town of Sderot, causing no injuries or damage. Israel’s Defence Minister Mofaz called the incident "severe" and demanded that PA President Abbas do all he could to prevent further missile attacks. (Ha’aretz)

Israel’s Vice Premier Shimon Peres met with US Vice-President Cheney and told him that the “Ma’aleh Adumim” settlement construction plans were out of date and would not be implemented in the near future. Mr. Cheney expressed the Administration's opposition to the plans, designed to connect the West Bank settlement to East Jerusalem. (Ha’aretz)

Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister Ze’ev Boim said on Israel Army Radio that Gaza Strip settlement private homes would be left standing intact and would be handed over to the Palestinians or an international agency. The related IDF bases would be destroyed. (AP)

8

Israel’s police tightened access to East Jerusalem’s Al-Haram al-Sharif holy site as Jewish extremist groups began arriving in the Old City, occupied since June 1967, to protest the Israeli Government’s disengagement plan. Some 40,000 Hamas supporters in the northern Gaza Strip marched to protest the planned settlers’ rally in East Jerusalem and warned of an immediate resumption of violence if extremists entered the holy site. (AP, WAFA)

9

Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinian teenagers in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, near the Egyptian border. Witnesses said two of the boys, both aged 17, were killed by machine-gun fire from an Israeli armoured vehicle which shot at five teenagers playing football in a restricted area. The third boy, aged 15, later died of his wounds. An Israeli military source confirmed the deaths and denied that the boys had been playing football, “Soldiers spotted a group of fiv Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinian teenagers in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, near the Egyptian border. Witnesses said two of the boys, both aged 17, were killed by machine-gun fire from an Israeli armoured vehicle which shot at five teenagers playing football in a restricted area. The third boy, aged 15, later died of his wounds. An Israeli military source confirmed the deaths and denied that the boys had been playing football, “Soldiers spotted a group of five suspects crawling toward the border. Suddenly they began to run toward the border, despite warning shots being fired.” (AFP, AP, WAFA)

Palestinians fired dozens of mortar shells overnight towards Israeli settlers and troop positions in the Gaza Strip and into Israel without causing any injuries, military sources said. The firing damaged three houses, sources added. Prime Minister Sharon, who was en route to Texas, said the mortar attacks were “a flagrant violation of the understandings” reached with PA President Abbas. (AFP, AP)

10

Thousands of Israeli police encircled East Jerusalem’s Old City, stopping cars and setting up roadblocks in an attempt to block members of the Israeli group “Revava” from entering the Al-Haram Al-Sharif holy site. Police imposed limited access to the area after Jewish extremists threatened to hold a rally on the site, which was not authorized. Only Arab-Israelis and Palestinians from East Jerusalem, aged at least 40, had been allowed into the site. “Revava” said it would hold a demonstration that would bring some “10,000 Jews … to spark Israeli dialogue about reclaiming the holy site from its Muslim custodians.” An hour after a march was to have begun, only a dozen demonstrators have shown up at the Old City gate. Protest organizers said it was a test run for the summer’s planned Gaza withdrawal. In anticipation of the protest, hundreds of Palestinians spent the night at the Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound. Elsewhere, opponents of the planned Gaza withdrawal burned tires and blocked a main Tel Aviv area highway during rush hour causing a large traffic jam. Israeli police arrested 31 Israelis and 8 Palestinians in Jerusalem and another 32 Israelis in Tel Aviv. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz)

“Revava” member David Hariri said, “All we are asking for is a small place, well defined, to be able to pray in the holy place. Temple Mount is vast. The Mosques only take up 10 per cent of the space.” Israeli President Moshe Katsav said on public radio that “at the end of the day I think there will have to be an arrangement” which would “permit Jews the power equally to pray without diminishing in any way the rights of Muslims.” In response, the PA Ministerial Council condemned Mr. Katsav’s statement saying the PA and the Palestinian people’s absolute rejection of any attempts to partition Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and that any such attempt would bury the peace process. “Revava” announced another attempt to pray at the site on 9 May. (AFP, WAFA)

Outside East Jerusalem’s Old City walls, hundreds of young Palestinians scuffled with baton-wielding Israeli police, who kept them away from the Al-Haram Al-Sharif holy site. Two Palestinians were hurt, with one suffering a head injury after being hit by a club. Eventually, the Palestinians knelt in orderly lines on the road, ringing the Old City to perform Muslim prayers. Elsewhere in the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets. In Nablus, some 3,000 Palestinians, including dozens of armed men who fired guns in the air, marched through the streets. In Hebron, about 1,000 Palestinians marched and chanted slogans about protecting the Mosque. (AP)

Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yussef was detained, as he tried to return to the West Bank after having joined Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, police said. He had attended the vigil despite being barred by Israeli authorities from entering Israel or East Jerusalem. (AFP)

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned the killings of three unarmed Palestinian children on 9 April near the Egyptian border in the Gaza Strip. A press release said Israeli soldiers wilfully killed the children who did not pose any threat. According to medical sources, each of the victims had been hit by one live bullet in the upper part of the body. The three victims were identified as Khaled Fu’ad Ghannam, 17, Ashraf Sameer Mousa, 15, and Hassan Ahmed Abu Zaid, 17. In another incident Israeli forces had recently fired at residential areas in Khan Yunis, wounding 5 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children. According to PCHR’s records, since the beginning of 2005, 70 Palestinians, including 22 children, had been killed by the IDF. (WAFA, www.pchrgaza.org)

11

Four Palestinians were injured and six arrested by Israeli troops in the West Bank, according to witnesses. Amid heavy shooting, Israeli troops stormed several streets in Nablus. Rami al-Khalili, Ibrahim al-Khalili, Feras Tanbor, Mohammed Tanbor and Nour Tanbor were taken to an undisclosed location. In Al-Yammoun near Jenin, troops arrested Oma Abahreh, after searching several houses. (WAFA)

Israeli military officials said approximately 500 settlers in four West Bank settlements would be disarmed two weeks before they were to leave their homes that summer under Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement plan. Settlers, however, said they would not give up their weapons. Yediot Aharonot had quoted a senior military officer as saying armed “cells” had already been established in the West Bank settlements of “Sa-Nur” and “Homesh.” (AP)

Palestinian herdsmen accused residents of the “Maron” settlement and inhabitants of two settlement outposts around 20 kilometres south of Hebron of poisoning their flock in a bid to force them to leave the area. According to the director of the Hebron branch of the PA Agriculture Ministry, Mohammad Qanam, no less than 20 heads of cattle had died after having eaten poisoned fodder allegedly placed by settlers in the pasture of villages such as Al-Tawani, Al-Mufaqara and Tuba. “It is very dangerous as this poison can be transmitted to humans if they eat meat or drink the milk of these animals,” he said. Tests carried out at the University of Bir Zeit had found flouroacetamide, a highly toxic substance without any known antidote. A spokesperson from the Israeli police confirmed that poison had been detected but said he did not know where it came from and that an inquiry was under way. ( AFP)

Some 200 Israeli and Palestinian protestors attempted to block garbage trucks coming from Israel to a garbage dump near Nablus. It was reported that Israel had decided to transfer garbage beyond the Green Line and dump it in the West Bank for the first time since 1967. The dump was in its final stages of construction. The activists, members of the Anarchists Against the Fence movement, green movements as well as Palestinians from the West Bank, arrived at the dump to prevent the trucks from unloading garbage in the site. The dump operators planned to deposit 10,000 tonnes of garbage from the Dan and Sharon regions in Israel every month. (Ha’aretz)

Eight Palestinians were arrested by Israeli soldiers who had conducted a search of houses in several villages in the West Bank. Four members of the Salah family were arrested in the village of Arrabeh, near Jenin. In Qalqilya, troops arrested three Palestinians. One Palestinian was also arrested in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp, near Hebron. Sources said IDF troops entered the town of Howwara, near Nablus, and imposed a curfew. (WAFA)

A PA spokesman accused Israel of breaching the 8 February 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh understanding reached with the PA. The spokesman said Israel had openly violated the understanding when troops raided Nablus the day earlier, detained Palestinians, and killed three youths in Rafah on 9 April. “Ending violence according to the Sharm el-Sheikh understanding in which Israel said it is committed to must be parallel, mutual and happening at the same time the Palestinians are committed to. If Israel continues its practices, this would for sure lead to the collapse of the hudna (ceasefire) and the period of calmness that Palestinian factions accepted in Cairo on 17 March,” the spokesman said. (AFP, AP, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), WAFA)

PA President Qureia called on President Bush to take steps to stop Israel’s settlement expansion. Failure of the US to take steps to end settlement construction meant “digging a grave for the peace process,” he said after a meeting with EU Mideast Peace Envoy Marc Otte. Mr. Qureia refuted Israeli accusations that the PA was not doing anything to control militants in the Palestinian areas, saying the PA “does all it can to keep the calm.” Meanwhile, Mr. Otte had called on both sides to observe the 8 February Sharm el-Sheikh understandings. (DPA)

Prime Minister Sharon, speaking at a Prime Minister Sharon, speaking at a press conference with President Bush in Texas, said Israel’s position was that large West Bank settlement blocks would remain in Israeli hands in the framework of any final status agreement with the Palestinians. While praising Mr. Sharon’s “courageous initiative to disengage from Gaza and part of the West Bank,” President Bush said, “I told the Prime Minister of my concern that Israel not undertake any activity that contravenes obligations of the Road Map , or prejudice final status negotiations. Therefore, Israel should remove unauthorized outposts and meet its Road Map obligations regarding settlements in the West Bank.” Mr. Bush also emphasized that the outcome of negotiations must consider Israel’s concerns about “major Israel population centres.” While agreeing with President Bush on the general outlines of the Road Map, Mr. Sharon said, “The position of Israel is that in any final status agreement the major Israeli population centres in Judea and Samaria will be part of the State of Israel.” He also said, “Regarding the unauthorized outposts … I will fulfil my commitment to you, Mr. President, to remove unauthorized outposts. As for settlements, Israel will meet all its obligations under the Road Map. … We accept the principle that no unilateral actions by any party can prejudge the outcome of bilateral negotiations between us and the Palestinians.” On the Palestinian leadership President Bush said, “I appreciate the fact that they’ve taken some action on security. We want to continue to work with them on consolidating security forces.” (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, ww.whitehouse.gov)

PA spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh accused Israel of “again looking for excuses in order to escape implementing the Road Map”, adding, “It is not possible to give any legitimacy for any settlement activity or any settlement presence. The final status talks between Israel and the Palestinians should start without any preconditions.” PA Negotiation Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat warned that the continuation of settlement activity, including building to accommodate “natural growth,” would undermine the whole peace process. He said he hoped Mr. Sharon would respond to calls by President Bush to stop all settlement activity in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He added that there were contradictions between calls to freeze settlements and Mr. Sharon’s intention to keep the large West Bank settlement blocks in the framework of any final status agreement with the Palestinians. “There is no legal settlement and illegal settlement. All … are basically illegal,” Mr. Erakat added. (BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the de facto truce was in danger of collapse due to Israel’s failure to release all the Palestinian prisoners it had promised and its continuing military actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Mr. Abu Zuhri demanded Israel free 400 Palestinian prisoners as promised on 8 February 2005 at Sharm el-Sheikh. (Reuters)

Speaking before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, Defence Minister Mofaz said Israel would not respond militarily to the recent barrages of mortal shells Palestinian militants had fired at the “Gush Katif” settlement block and the western Negev. Mr. Mofaz said, “The Government’s policy at this stage is not to retaliate, and to give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a chance.” He said he had made it clear to Mr. Abbas in a phone conversation that he should act decisively to put a Speaking before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, Defence Minister Mofaz said Israel would not respond militarily to the recent barrages of mortal shells Palestinian militants have fired at the “Gush Katif” settlement block and the western Negev. Mr. Mofaz said, “The Government’s policy at this stage is not to retaliate, and to give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a chance.” He said he had made it clear to Mr. Abbas in a phone conversation that he should act decisively to put an end to the shelling. (Ha’aretz)

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A Palestinian was wounded and several others arrested by Israeli troops in separate attacks in the West Bank. Medical sources at the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus said Tahseen Bsharat had been taken to hospital with bruises on her abdomen, after an encounter with Israeli soldiers at a mobile checkpoint at the entrance of the Al-Tammoun village near Nablus. Three Palestinians were arrested in the area south of Ramallah. (Ha’aretz, WAFA)

An IDF spokesperson said the army had arrested a 15-year-old Palestinian boy carrying five pipe bombs at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus. (AP, The Jerusalem Post)

The IDF said that Palestinians had fired a mortar shell at a settlement in the southern Gaza Strip, causing no injuries or damage. Three wanted PFLP members were arrested south-west of Jenin and two Fatah members in Azzun, east of Qalqilya. Two explosive devices were also discovered by the IDF near Rafah along the border with Egypt. (www.idf.il)

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and Israel’s Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom ended a meeting in Cairo during which Mr. Shalom presented Israel’s plan for peace with Arab and Muslim States. Commenting on the situation with the PA, Mr. Shalom said, “We should do everything in our power not to miss this chance to advance the peace process. Time is against us.” Mr. Shalom also said he asked Mr. Mubarak “to exercise his unique authority and influence to help ensure that it is the moderates on the Palestinian side who set the agenda [after the planned Gaza withdrawal] and not the extremists.” (Ha’aretz, Reuters, www.mfa.gov.il)

Israel’s Defence Minister Mofaz toured the Gaza Strip, including army bases, to review IDF preparations for the planned Israeli withdrawal. He announced that starting 2008, labourers from the Occupied Palestinian Territory would no longer be able to enter Israel for work. “We hope that by the year 2008, the financial situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will improve and that Palestinians will be able to find work in areas under PA control. That is the goal the Cabinet has set,” Mr. Mofaz said. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

A Palestinian official said that more than 200 Palestinian militants had pledged not to carry out acts of violence in exchange for jobs. Abdel Fattah Hamayel, a former PA minister in charge of the programme, said about 80 Palestinians wanted by Israel had already started working for West Bank security services, but had yet to agree to turn in their weapons. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

13

The IDF said Palestinians had launched a mortar shell at a settlement in the southern Gaza Strip, causing no injuries or damage. (www.idf.il)

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, an armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, had claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Israeli army posts east of the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The group said in a leaflet that its militants had fired two homemade rockets in response to “Israel’s continuous crimes carried out in the Palestinian lands.” (Xinhua)

A Palestinian was shot and critically wounded in Tulkarm by Israeli gunfire, according to Palestinian medical sources. Also, Palestinian security sources said the IDF had stormed Nablus and detained three Palestinians in the Balata refugee camp. (Xinhua)

A crowd of Palestinians attacked an IDF vehicle on routine patrol in the Tsurif village near Hebron. The crowd threw stones at trapped soldiers in the overturned vehicle, and the soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets in response. The IDF said troops had fired a live bullet at a man who had thrown a concrete block at them, wounding him in the leg. Several soldiers and four Palestinians were injured in the incident. (AP)

Israel Army Radio quoted Prime Minister Sharon as saying at the close of talks with senior US officials that Israel planned to leave most of the buildings in the Gaza settlements intact after this summer’s pullout, but that that depended on coordination with the Palestinians. He said that coordination had not taken place because of what he called internal disagreements among the Palestinians. “My position [is] to remove synagogues and cemeteries to Israel, but to leave the buildings there intact,”' he said. In an interview following Mr. Sharon's, PA Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa told CNN that Israel had yet to transfer any information about the buildings in the Gaza settlements. He said the Palestinians welcomed any Israeli withdrawal and wanted to open negotiations about the larger issue of whether the pullbacks would continue in the West Bank. He said the type of housing in the settlements would not be useful for Palestinians and added, “There should be no reward for any of the assets, because they were established illegally.” (AP, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

In a press statement, a PA presidency spokesman asserted that President Abbas and the PA were ready to initiate final status negotiations with Israel on the basis of the Road Map and ending the Israeli occupation, the expansion of settlements on the lands occupied by Israel since 1967 and the construction of the wall. The statement came as a reply to Prime Minister Sharon's accusations when he told President Bush at a meeting in Texas on 11 April that Palestinian inaction to dismantle militant groups was holding up any start to the implementation of the Road Map towards Palestinian statehood in Israeli-occupied territories. The statement expressed Mr. Abbas’ astonishment at the Israeli media campaign against the PA. It said President Abbas enjoyed the full support and trust of his people to achieve peace with Israel, based on the vision of President Bush for a two-state solution. Mr. Abbas called on the Israeli leaders to think about peace and security instead of wasting valuable time, asking them to seize this opportunity and current atmosphere of peace. (Reuters, WAFA)

PA President Abbas met with EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Marc Otte, whom he briefed on the latest developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as Israel's breaches of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit understandings. Mr. Otte told reporters the discussions included EU training for Palestinian police, including those in Jericho, and ways to improve the Palestinian economic situation. (WAFA)

Twenty Israeli and 12 Palestinian mayors gathered in Jericho to show support for the ceasefire and encourage a return to the negotiating table. The mayors said they had come to Jericho to declare a “civilian truce”. Eli Moyal, the mayor of Sderot, said, “We know at the end of all wars, we've got to sit together and live together, so let's do it as soon as possible”. Jericho’s mayor Hassan Saleh, the host of the event, said it was time to take a more peaceful path to Palestinian statehood. “We have both paid a heavy price ... good neighbours will not come with occupation, it will not come with checkpoints, it will not come with killing or rockets or bombings,” Mr. Saleh said. At the end of the two-hour gathering, the mayors released a joint statement expressing sorrow and regret for all lives lost in the decades of conflict and reiterated their support for a two-state solution. ( Ha’aretz)

14

Ibrahim al-Smiri, 25, an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member, was killed in the Balata refugee camp after he opened fire during an Israeli raid on the camp, IDF sources told Ha'aretz. Mr. al-Smiri had been wanted for attacks against Israel. Witnesses said he was killed by soldiers disguised as locals in what they described as an assassination. PA President Abbas accused Israel of violating the ceasefire agreement of Sharm el-Sheikh. Fellow members of the Brigades vowed to avenge the killing. (AFP, UPI)

PA President Abbas ordered the disparate Palestinian security services to come under the authority of three main institutions: the National Security Forces, the Interior Ministry, and the General Intelligence Agency, a Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. The move would also expand the responsibilities of Interior Minister Nasser Yousef, who, in addition to having been named by Mr. Abbas as his security chief earlier in the year, would be heading the three main security institutions. Mr. Yousef would be responsible for all contacts between the three security institutions and foreign entities, such as Israel and the United States. (AP)

Hamas accused Fatah of trying to delay the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections and said it was lobbying lawmakers to ensure the elections would be held on time. Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said PA President Abbas had assured him in a telephone call the day before that the elections would not be postponed. Mr. Zahar said Hamas would not accept a delay. Last week, Fatah PLC member Kadoura Fares expressed doubts the election law would be passed on time, saying Parliament was incapable of meeting the deadline. Mohammed Ghazal, a Hamas election coordinator in the West Bank, said the group did not want to run the Government, but was keen to have strong representation in Parliament. (AP)

In Amman, Jordanian and Greek ministers vowed to pursue a probe into the alleged sale by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchy of church land in East Jerusalem to private investors. The commitment followed talks between Jordan’s Interior Minister Awni Yervas and Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis. At the meeting, a committee was set up comprising the Jordanian state prosecutor as well as legal consultants from both the Patriarchy and Jordan’s Interior Ministry to probe the alleged land sale. (AFP)

The UN Commission on Human Rights adopted three resolutions condemning Israel's use of force against Palestinian civilians and called on Israel to stop building settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territory. (AP, Ha’aretz)

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rica announced on behalf of the Quartet the appointment of James Wolfensohn, outgoing President of the World Bank, as Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement. According to Ms. Rice, he would focus his efforts on two areas: Palestinian-Israeli coordination concerning the non-military aspects of the withdrawal, including the disposition of the assets that would be left behind, and secondly, the revival of the Palestinian economy in the wake of the withdrawal. President Bush, speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, said Mr. Wolfensohn would help PA President Abbas build a functioning Government. (AP, www.state.gov)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman of Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(UN News Centre)

A group of retired international policymakers launched an Internet campaign, www.mideastcalm.org , urging the Bush Administration to engage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The online petition calls on the US to “use all the resources at its disposal to help Israelis and Palestinians overcome the differences and fears that divide them in order to reach a settlement that will provide true security for Israel, help the Palestinians to achieve their own democratic State and lead to peace and prosperity for all the peoples of the region.” Initial signatories included former US Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Lawrence Eagleburger, as well as former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. (JTA)

15

The IDF announced that its troops arrested a Palestinian who had crossed the buffer zone in the Golan Heights and dug a ditch under the electronic fence. He then penetrated a border post north-east of the “Kazrin” settlement and opened fire before being overpowered by soldiers. (UPI)

An explosive device was detonated near the “Kissufim” crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel as IDF soldiers were passing through the area. No one was wounded in the attack and no damage was caused, Israel Radio reported. Also, soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip discovered an explosive device weighing 40 kg. (The Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s Defence Minister Mofaz ordered the IDF to make arrangements to collect weapons from the settlers shortly before the planned evacuation. Speaking on Israel Army Radio , Avner Shimoni, head of the “Gaza Coast Regional Council,” said he favoured complying with the Defence Ministry order. But another settler leader, Eran Sternberg, said settlers would not turn over their arms. According to a poll published in Yediot Ahronot, 74 per cent of the 402 settlers questioned said they would resist evacuating forces passively, while 11 per cent said they would use force. (AP)

Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied an earlier Yediot Ahronot article saying Prime Minister Sharon was planning a further disengagement after the one from the Gaza Strip was complete. (The Jerusalem Post)

PA President Abbas said Palestinians stood ready to help coordinate the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip. Mr. Abbas made these comments after meeting Lt.-Gen. William E. Ward, US Security Coordinator for the Middle East. (UPI)

PA President Abbas and PA Prime Minister Qureia condemned the killing of Ibrahim al-Smiri, an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member, the previous day, by IDF soldiers. (IPC, WAFA)

Fatah was considering postponing the PLC elections scheduled for 17 July 2005, Qaddoura Faris, a legislator from Ramallah, confirmed. He cited procedural problems as the reason. (DPA)

Islamic Jihad announced it would not field candidates for the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections and would not call on its members to boycott the ballot, a senior leader said. “We’re moving towards not participating in the legislative council election, meaning we will not field candidates. We will not ask our supporters to boycott the election. “Voting is an option,” according to senior leader Mohammed al-Hindi. He said the reason for not fielding candidates was related to Israel’s settlements and military presence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (Reuters)

In remarks to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, D.C., US Secretary of State Rice said Israelis and Palestinians had the best opportunity to forge peace that they were likely to see for many years. She said the US deserved some credit for promoting democracy in the Middle East, adding true democracy must be homegrown. (AP)

16

Israel and the PA would renew dialogue and cooperation. According to an Israeli Government source, the dialogue was to take place between the joint committees formed during the 8 February 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh summit. Dov Weissglas, Special Advisor to Prime Minister Sharon, would meet with PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat in the coming days to finalize the renewed cooperation. The joint committees would deal with matters such as security procedures, the Israeli handover of West Bank cities to PA control and the release of Palestinian prisoners. (DPA)

PA President Abbas said the PA intended to hold elections for the PLC on 17 July 2005, as scheduled. “We have no intentions or desire to delay these elections,” he told reporters in Ramallah. However, PA Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Sha’ath said “the question really has to do with the Israeli pullout of Gaza during that time, and our fear that the Israelis might make it difficult for people to conduct real election campaigns and have real freedom of movement. This is really the only consideration.” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said a delay in the vote would prompt Hamas to rethink its de facto truce with Israel. (Ha’aretz)

17

Palestinians fired on an IDF position near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip and in the northern West Bank. No injuries were reported. (Ha’aretz)

Settlers set up two outposts in the Hebron-Kiryat Arba area and one outpost near the settlement of “Elon Moreh,” leaving some 100 persons, mostly teenage boys, in each outpost. Israel Radio reported that troops removed two of the outposts. (Ha’aretz)

PA Negotiations Affairs Minister Saeb Erakat said he would soon meet with Dov Weissglas, Special Advisor to Prime Minister Sharon. The meeting would discuss renewing negotiations between the two sides, as well as finalizing arrangements for renewed cooperation of joint committees. (DPA, Ha’aretz)

James Wolfensohn, the Quartet’s newly-appointed Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, said he planned to visit Israel and the Gaza Strip early next week. “What I am hoping to do is to help them [Palestinians], particularly on the issues of economic and social development, and trying to bring the international community together in support of both restoration of hope in the Palestinian territories and new outlook for people in terms of jobs, in terms of opportunities.” (Reuters)

In talks with PA President Abbas in Amman, King Abdullah II of Jordan said, “The pullout from Gaza should be followed by a withdrawal from the West Bank as laid down in the In talks with PA President Abbas in Amman, King Abdullah II of Jordan said “The pullout from Gaza should be followed by a withdrawal from the West Bank as laid down in the Road Map ”. President Abbas and the King said the issue of settlements posed “an obstacle to a just and comprehensive peace,” calling for a “halt to the construction of new and illegal settlements” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP)

After talks with President Mubarak of Egypt at Sharm el-Sheikh, PA President Abbas said the PA was willing to coordinate with Israel on its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and wanted to know more about the plans. “I assured President Mubarak that the Palestinian side is fully prepared to coordinate with the Israelis on the subject. But we must know where we are putting our feet, whether this is linked to the Road Map and whether this is complete withdrawal,” he said. Mr. Dov Weissglas, Special Advisor to Prime Minister Sharon, said, “The moment the Palestinian Authority will take a decision and announce formally on its intention to coordinate the disengagement, the coordination channels will be activated. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon denounced reports that he planned to carry out more unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank after the pullout from the Gaza Strip, calling it a “total lie.” Members of the Labour Party had threatened to quit the Government if Mr. Sharon did not implement further pullouts. At a Cabinet meeting, Mr. Sharon said he might postpone by three weeks the first evacuations of settler homes until 14 August, at the recommendation of the plan’s administrator, who said settlers should not be moved during a Jewish mourning period, Tisha B’av, which marked the destruction of the two biblical temples. Three settlements in the northern Gaza Strip – “Alei Sinai,” “Dugit,” and “Nisanit” – would be the first to be evacuated by the army and police, based on the latest version of withdrawal plans. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz)

The Israeli Cabinet approved by majority vote Prime Minister Sharon’s proposal setting special work procedures for all matters regarding advancing the implementation of the Gaza disengagement plan. The goal of the decision was to achieve maximum efficiency and to hasten the work procedures regarding both the evacuation of communities in the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank and the provision of various alternative residence solutions. (www.pmo.gov.il)

Two senior Israeli ministers called on Jews living outside Israel to back Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement plan. “Peace is already beginning with our withdrawal from Gaza,” according to Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, at a meeting of 8,000 members of France’s Jewish community in Paris. At the same meeting, Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz said, “We have to do everything we can to ensure that the State of Israel will exist until the end of time with a unified Jerusalem as its capital.” (AFP)

More than 100,000 people held a protest in Jakarta and several other Indonesian cities calling for the protection of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. Thousands of Indonesians protested in the cities of Semarang, Lampung, Pekanbaru, Banda Aceh and Makassar. An organizer of the Jakarta protest, Tifaful Sembiring, said, “We urge the Indonesian Government to prioritize the Palestinian issue in the upcoming Asian-African Summit.” (AP)

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IDF troops stationed near the settlement of “Nisanit” in the northern Gaza Strip opened fire on and wounded a 19-year-old Palestinian farmer who was working at his family's farm, Palestinian medics said. (UPI)

Palestinian militants shot and wounded two Israelis near an army post in the southern Gaza Strip. The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) claimed responsibility for the shooting, which took place near Rafah on the Gaza-Egyptian border. The group said it was avenging the IDF’s killing of Palestinian youths on 9 April, and another Palestinian during a raid on a refugee camp in Nablus on 14 April. A Palestinian also opened fire near “Neve Dekalim” in the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported. In Nablus, IDF troops reportedly found three kilogrammes of explosives hidden in an oven. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The Israeli Government issued a tender seeking bids for the construction of 50 new homes in the settlement of “Elkana” in the West Bank. Spokesman for the Israel Lands Administration Yaakov Harel said the homes would be built near the Green Line. He said infrastructure work had been completed, and construction of the homes could begin in two or three months. (AP, BBC, Ha’aretz)

According to an IDF investigation, the soldiers who killed three Palestinian youths in Rafah on 9 April, shot to kill and did not aim their weapons at the victims’ lower body parts, as military sources originally claimed. Military sources said that the youths were unarmed and shots to their legs would have sufficed. The probe was expected to continue. (Ha’aretz)

Officials said there was widespread agreement within Fatah to hold elections after the organization’s general meeting in August, after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. Fatah was expected to reorganize its ranks. (Ha’aretz)

President Bush "made his views pretty clear" during his meeting the previous week in Crawford, Texas, with Prime Minister Sharon, that "Israel should not expand settlements,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. "We will be seeking clarification from the Government of Israel,” Mr. McClellan said, referring to Israeli plans to build 50 homes in the settlement of “Elkana” in the West Bank. (Reuters)

Opponents of Israel's Gaza Strip disengagement plan have failed to block the Evacuation Compensation Bill, as Israel’s Supreme Court rejected eight petitions for an injunction against the law. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon announced his support for a proposal by the head of the Disengagement Administration to postpone the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank until 15 August 2005, citing conflicts with Jewish religious law. The ministerial committee headed by Mr. Sharon, which met on 19 April to discuss the postponement, ended without a decision, an official said. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Most American Jews support the disengagement plan, according to a new poll conducted by the US Jewish organization Ameinu. The poll, which surveyed a national sample of 501 Jews, suggested that their attitudes toward the plan were similar to those of Israelis or US citizens as a whole. A telephone survey found that 62 per cent of respondents backed the plan, while 23 per cent opposed it. On the issue of Palestinian refugees, 41 per cent of US Jews favoured allowing a token number of Palestinians into areas of Israel they or their families left, while 30 per cent were against the idea. (Ha’aretz)

Vice Premier Shimon Peres met in Paris with President Chirac and Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, who proposed hosting an international conference on assisting the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Peres suggested focusing on economic measures, warning that political content would reintroduce the issues of Jerusalem and refugees. "The correct way is first to present an economic horizon, which leads to economic democracy, and only afterward to discuss political matters. But if the economic conference bears political fruit, that would be a positive outcome," he said. (Ha’aretz)

19

Palestinians opened fire on IDF troops in the southern Gaza Strip. No casualties or damages were reported. (Ha’aretz)

An IDF unit entered the Balata refugee camp near Nablus and arrested several Palestinians. (WAFA)

The IDF said it had arrested a wanted Hamas member north of Ramallah alleged to have been involved in shooting attacks, and two wanted Fatah members in Beit Furik, south-east of Nablus. Also, in Silat Kharitiyya, north-west of Jenin, the army arrested two Islamic Jihad members alleged to have been involved in attacks against Israelis. (www.idf.il)

PA President Abbas said that the PA had collected weapons from all the militants wanted by Israel in the West Bank towns of Jericho and Tulkarm. Speaking at a meeting with Israeli journalists in Ramallah, he said, "We took many steps, some transparent and some unpublicized, but Israel kills three youths in Rafah and a wanted man in the Balata refugee camp, and arrests two others. These things ruin our legitimacy." (Ha’aretz)

Fatah members of the PLC decided to vote in favour of a draft election law, clearing the way for PLC elections to take place on 17 July. (AP)

Palestinian Chief Negotiator Erakat commented on the Israeli Government’s decision to seek bids for the construction of 50 new homes in the settlement of “Elkana” by saying that it would ruin President Bush's vision of a two-State solution in accordance with the Road Map. (IPC)

PA Minister of Civil Affairs Mohammed Dahlan said that PA security forces would not allow any militant group to disturb order during the scheduled Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip. (Xinhua)

US Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch would meet PA President Abbas and other senior PA officials on 20 April to discuss the latest development and preparations for the upcoming visit to Washington by Mr. Abbas, Palestinian sources said. The US officials would also hold talks with Prime Minister Sharon on the settlements issue and the Gaza disengagement plan. (AFP)

20

Israeli troops arrested a Palestinian man carrying 50 bullets at a checkpoint near Nablus. (Ynet)

A 37-year-old Palestinian woman suffered a miscarriage when the ambulance taking her to a hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip was stopped by Israeli soldiers. (International Press Centre, WAFA)

The deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouq, said in an interview with the Al-Bayan newspaper published in Dubai, “Should [Israel] withdraw from the Palestinian lands, there would be nothing to stop us from negotiating with [Israel].” Mr. Abu Marzouq also said Hamas was prepared to set up a government should it win the PLC elections in July. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF had begun moving equipment out of the Gaza Strip ahead of the planned disengagement. About 20 containers loaded with office furniture, computers, weapons and other equipment had been removed from an army base in the “Gush Katif” settlement block, an army spokesman said. (AP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

In a meeting in Ramallah chaired by PA President Abbas, the Fatah Central Committee confirmed its Palestinian strategy for the peace process and support for all efforts to activate the process. It rejected the continuation of the construction of the separation wall and settlements. The Committee also affirmed that withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank was just one step towards withdrawal from all Palestinian land, in accordance with the Road Map . The Committee stressed that the PA was the only authority responsible for law and order on any land that Israel evacuated. (WAFA)

In an interview with Ha’aretz, Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel planned to retain large West Bank settlement blocks under any final peace agreement. “We are building 1,000 apartments in “Betar Illit” and hundreds of apartments in “Ma’aleh Adumim”. (Ha’aretz)

In Jerusalem, PA Prime Minister Qureia and EU Middle East Envoy Otte exchanged letters launching a programme of EU support for reform of the Palestinian security services, the EU said in a statement . Located in Ramallah and headed by a senior British police officer, the European Union Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EU COPPS) would channel essential training and equipment to the Palestinian police and monitor progress toward more effective policing, the statement said. (AP)

In Vilnius, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held talks with NATO partners on the Middle East peace process. The focus of the discussion was on the next steps needed to push forward the peace process. Ms. Rice told reporters, “We all agree that the most important task ahead of us right now is a successful Israel In Vilnius, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held talks with NATO partners on the Middle East peace process. The focus of the discussion was on the next steps needed to push forward the peace process. Ms. Rice told reporters, “We all agree that the most important task ahead of us right now is a successful Israeli disengagement from Gaza and the four settlements in the West Bank.” Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters, “It's too early to talk about NATO involvement or engagement, but it cannot be ruled out in terms of stability and security.” (AP)

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Palestinian militants detonated a roadside bomb as an Israeli military vehicle patrolled the border with the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing, which moderately wounded one soldier. The bombing occurred on the Israeli side of the Al-Muntar (Karni) crossing. The PA Interior Ministry had opened an investigation into the attack. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Israel’s Vice Premier Shimon Peres met with PA Prime Minister Qureia for a two-hour talk in Jerusalem. Their discussions focused on the forthcoming Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and economic issues linked to Gaza's future after the withdrawal, a member of the Palestinian delegation said. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat and Civil Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan also attended the meeting. The source said, “They also worked out a timetable for future meetings” and discussed the possibility of a new meeting between Israel’s Prime Minister Sharon and PA President Abbas. (AFP)

Israel’s Defence Minister Mofaz recommended that the Gaza pullout be postponed by three weeks, until 15 August. The proposal was expected to go to a committee headed by Prime Minister Sharon for approval. The declared reason for the delay was out of respect for Orthodox Jews who would observe a three-week mourning period for the destruction of the biblical Jewish Temples. In an interview with Israel Radio , Prime Minister Sharon insisted that the evacuation would take place even if it were delayed. Mr. Sharon said he had no plans for further withdrawals from the West Bank until the Palestinians took action against armed militants. “The disengagement will be carried out,” he told Israel Army Radio . “Whoever thinks this will open the way to delays or not implementing (the evacuation) or other pressures is simply wrong.” Mr. Sharon added that any further withdrawals from the West Bank would take place only under the Road Map. (AP)

Israeli Defence Minister Mofaz and PA Civil Affairs Minister Dahlan had agreed to form “coordination mechanisms” ahead of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported. The two had also agreed to continue meeting until the implementation of the withdrawal. The radio quoted Mr. Mofaz as saying the security coordination with the Palestinians was aimed to avoid a situation whereby the pullout would take place “under fire” from Palestinian militants. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Xinhua)

Prime Minister Sharon told The Jerusalem Post that Israel would respond to any future Palestinian attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, but he could not envision Israeli ground forces returning to the area. ( AP)

Prime Minister Sharon demanded a complete halt to Palestinian violence before he began implementing the Road Map . He said Israel would not be bound by its terms while attacks by Palestinian groups continued. “We will not be committed to the Road Map until the Palestinians respect their commitment to stop terrorism,” Mr. Sharon told public radio. Mr. Sharon said he expected not only “a total end to terrorism and violence” but also a “cessation of incitement to violence. The Palestinian Authority has taken some measures but they are insufficient,” he said. Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat said, “Sharon has never accepted the Road Map and it appears that he is speaking of another plan which has been drawn up by the Quartet”. Mr. Erakat called on the Quartet to “do everything possible to force Israel to carry out its commitments under the Road Map”. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon’s Special Advisor Dov Weissglas and PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat met to discuss setting up a meeting between Mr. Sharon and PA President Abbas. They did not set a date but spoke of the need for one. Mr. Erakat said after the meeting that the two delegations had agreed to renew the work of the joint committees on the release of Palestinian prisoners, wanted and extradited militants, and the handover of West Bank cities to Palestinian control. (AP, Ha’aretz)

Speaking after a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda in Jakarta, Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said his country would reject a plea by Israel to have Egypt influence Arab countries to establish normal ties with Israel. Mr. Aboul Gheit said it was down to individual governments to seize the peace initiative ahead of Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip, but stressed that that would be dependent on the establishment of a Palestinian State. “We tell them [Israelis] we have an Arab plan, an Arab initiative that calls for land for peace, if Israel withdraws from the occupied territories, and there is a Palestinian State, the Arab countries are ready to engage with Israel in normal relations.” (AFP)

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast briefed the Security Council on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.” (UN Press release SC/8365).

22

A spokesman for Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Balata refugee camp said Israeli troops had invaded the camp in an attempt to assassinate two senior leaders of the group. The two escaped the assassination attempt, but one sustained minor wounds in the exchange of fire, the spokesman said. (Xinhua)

The IDF arrested near Ramallah an Islamic Jihad member alleged to have been involved in shooting attacks against Israelis and planning to carry out a suicide bombing. (Ha’aretz)

Palestinian sources said the IDF had arrested one Palestinian in northern Tulkarm and four in Jenin after storming their houses. (WAFA, Xinhua)

The IDF said a mortar shell fired by Palestinians had landed near an army base in the southern Gaza Strip, causing no injuries or damage. The army also said it had arrested a Palestinian carrying 20 bullets concealed in a video cassette near the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus. (www.idf.il)

The IDF arrested a Palestinian carrying four pipe bombs outside Nablus. Shots were fired at an IDF post in the northern Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported. (Ha’aretz)

The IDF imposed a closure on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, banning Palestinians from entering Israel during the Passover holiday, from 23 to 30 April. (www.idf.il)

PA President Abbas announced the appointment of three people to head a consolidated Palestinian security service: Tareq Abu Rajab, as head of General Intelligence; Suleiman Heles, as head of National Security; and Alaa Husni, as head of the Palestinian police. President Abbas also retired two leading security figures, Moussa Arafat, head of the national security forces in the Gaza Strip, and Amin al-Hindi, head of General Intelligence, who were among some 1,150 Palestinian security officials eased out under the retirement plan announced earlier in the month, the officials said. (AP, Ha’aretz)

An Israeli Government official said Prime Minister Sharon was expected to announce immediately after the end of the Passover holiday the starting date of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip as 15 August. (AP)

Prime Minister Sharon’s office said in a statement that Mr. Sharon and PA President Abbas, in a telephone conversation, had “agreed to meet in the near future.” (AFP, Reuters)

Britain's 40,000-member Association of University Teachers had voted to boycott Israel’s Haifa and Bar Ilan universities. The union sanctioned Haifa because it said the university was threatening to fire an Israeli political science lecturer for supporting a student's research into allegations of killings by IDF troops. Bar Ilan was sanctioned for its links to the “College of Judea and Samaria,” located in the settlement of “Ariel” in the West Bank. (AP)

23

An IDF soldier was stabbed by an attacker who ran off with the soldier's weapon near the West Bank settlement of “Ganim” close to Jenin, Israeli medics said. (Reuters)

The IDF arrested three Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip as they attempted to cross into Egypt at the Rafah border crossing. (UPI)

PA Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Sha’ath requested Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to appoint a special Middle East envoy who could play an active role in creating peace, local media reports said. Mr. Sha’ath told journalists in Jakarta that “The Israeli Government’s withdrawal from Gaza has really paralyzed international opinion about Israel's expected attempt at building walls of separation and isolation of Jerusalem.” (AFP, DPA)

Israel had informed the Palestinian Authority that it would allow 3,500 Palestinian families to visit their relatives in Israeli jails, Palestinian sources said. (Xinhua)

Islamic Jihad called on all Palestinian factions to re-evaluate the truce agreed in Cairo on 17 March 2005 after Israel had arrested 10 members of Islamic Jihad in Jenin and attempted to assassinate an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activist in Nablus one day earlier. (Xinhua)

PA Foreign Minister Al-Kidwa called for an international conference on rebuilding what had been destroyed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the last few years. (Xinhua)

PA Minister of Civil Affairs Mohammed Dahlan said that several Palestinian technical committees, including 42 Palestinian experts in politics, security, planning, media, environment and economy, had been formed to coordinate with Israel on the planned Gaza Strip disengagement. He said that the Palestinian side had laid out conditions for the coordination to take place, which included connecting the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with a safe passage, a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, an agreement on Gaza's harbour, rebuilding the airport and transferring control over the crossing points to the PA. The PA had also demanded that Israel coordinate with it the line to which it would withdraw under the Gaza Strip disengagement plan. “If you don't want the problems of the Shebaa Farms, coordinate the line with us," Mr. Dahlan had been reported as saying. (AP, Ha’aretz, IPC, Xinhua)

24

Israel's Defence Minister Mofaz decided to extend the closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip until the end of the Passover holiday. No Palestinians would be allowed through military checkpoints into Israel, except for humanitarian reasons, an IDF statement said. (AP, DPA)

PA security forces destroyed a tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip suspected to have been used by militants to smuggle weapons from Egypt, security sources said. (AFP)

Israeli police blocked roads and searched cars near Tel Aviv and arrested three Palestinians who were suspected of being militants on their way to Tel Aviv to carry out an attack. It was later determined the three were labourers attempting to enter Israel illegally to seek work, Israel Radio reported. (Reuters)

25

Palestinians opened fire on an IDF outpost near the Gaza Strip settlement of “Gadid”. No injuries were reported. (Ha’aretz)

Five armed Israeli settlers from the “Elon Moreh” settlement attacked a 70-year-old Palestinian from the Beit Dajan village, east of Nablus, beating him severely, the village mayor said. (IPC)

An IDF reservist was killed when a Palestinian taxi ran over him at a roadblock at the Halhoul Bridge near Hebron. Other soldiers then opened fire at the driver, who died instantly. The IDF had been on high alert in the vicinity of Hebron because thousands of Israelis were expected to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs the following day. Palestinian witnesses however said it was pitch dark when the Palestinian driver suddenly saw the checkpoint. He tried to stop but the Israeli soldiers had already opened fire at him. The driver then lost control of the vehicle and ran over the soldier. (AP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, WAFA)

PA Minister of Civil Affairs Dahlan welcomed the participation of Palestinian factions in coordinating the coming Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Al-Ayyam reported. (Xinhua)

PA President Abbas said he expected Hamas to hand over its weapons after joining the PLC this summer. “We are committed to holding the polls in due time and have no intention of postponing them,” he said. The Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, said he would not agree to give up arms. (AP, UPI, Ha’aretz)

During a news conference at his office in Gaza, PA President Abbas welcomed Hamas’ desire to join the political process. But he said Hamas would be expected to give up its militant activities after the vote. “When a movement or militia is transformed into a political party, I would say that there will then be no need for them to possess weapons. There will be only one authority, one law, and one legal gun. The issue is very clear, and this has been common practice throughout history.” Mr. Abbas told reporters, “The Palestinian side has exerted all its efforts in the last 100 days, and although there has not been a complete cessation of military activity, there has been a dramatic drop in it; we, honestly, can't do the entire job in 100 days. On the issue of settlements Mr. Abbas said, “There is talk from President Bush that these settlement blocks must remain with Israel and this kind of talk we absolutely rejected; when Mr. Bush speaks of a Palestinian State, viable and contiguous, I would like to ask, are these words in harmony with his stated position?” (AP)

In response to PA President Abbas’ call for Hamas to disarm, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohri said Hamas would disarm only when Israel ended its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, adding that Mr. Abbas was in no position to disarm Hamas since Mr. Abbas’ own party’s military wing, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was still armed. (AP, Xinhua)

In Gaza City, PA President Abbas met with leaders of Palestinian factions late and discussed with them the issue of truce and ceasefire, Palestinian sources said. (Xinhua)

PA President Abbas said he would soon meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. “I will ask Sharon one thing, notably, to implement all signed agreements,” Mr. Abbas said. (UPI)

Amnesty International called on the Israeli Government to take action against West Bank settlers who allegedly have poisoned Palestinians' livestock. (Ha’aretz)

At its 2656th session, the Council of the European Union, meeting in Luxembourg, adopted its Conclusions concerning the Middle East peace process. In a press release the Council, among other things, affirmed its support for an independent and viable Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel. It noted that there was a lack of dynamism in the implementation of the commitments made at Sharm el-Sheikh and was particularly concerned about the announcement of increased settlement-building in the West Bank. (http://ue.eu.int)

26

The IDF blocked the Salah al-Din (“Philadelphi”) area, the main road that connected the north and south of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources said. Israeli soldiers positioned at Abu Huli and al-Matahen checkpoints, south of Deir al-Balah, blocked the checkpoints and prevented vehicles and commuters from passing through. Elsewhere, the IDF continued the closure of the al-Toffah checkpoint, the only entrance to the al-Mawassi locality, west of Khan Yunis City, for the second consecutive day. (WAFA)

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohri said Hamas had called for setting up a higher national committee comprising the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian factions to oversee Israel's Gaza pullout and to supervise public properties that will be evacuated by the Israelis. (UPI)

Thousands of Israelis attended the inauguration of a five-storey block of flats in Hebron. At the opening, settlers and their supporters vowed to go on with their battle to stay in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP)

PA President Abbas has named Rashid Abu Shbak as the new head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PPSS), officials said. Mr. Abu Shbak had run the Gaza branch of that agency for two years. (AP)

The Palestinian Authority had closed the Rafah border terminal in protest over Israel’s X-ray facility, but had reopened it after several hours, according to security sources. Salim Abu Safiya, director of the border authority, said that Israeli authorities were adamant about using the facility. (Xinhua)

In a statement, the Fatah Hawks, a military group affiliated with Fatah, said it bombed an Israeli bulldozer on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip and threatened to carry out more attacks against Israeli forces to stop them from building a barrier on the border in southern Gaza. (UPI)

Palestinian militants attacked an Israeli army force in the town of Rafah with an anti-tank missile, Israel Radio reported. It reported that Palestinian militants had also detonated bombs near an Israeli convoy of jeeps and army vehicles traveling on the Salah al-Din ("Philadelphi") area along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. No injuries were reported and no Palestinian group had claimed responsibility for the attacks. (Xinhua)

According to Yoram Fogel, the architect working on modifications to the construction plan for building 3,500 houses in the “E-1” region between East Jerusalem and the “Ma'aleh Adumim” settlement, work on the plan was proceeding as usual. He said the Construction and Housing Ministry staff in the Jerusalem district, who ordered the work, was still demanding completion. Jerusalem District Head Moshe Merhavia said since no instructions to the contrary had come from the Housing Minister, the work was indeed progressing. “Ma'aleh Adumim” Mayor Benny Kashriel, within whose jurisdiction “E-1” falls, said the modifications pertained to access roads and parking lots, among others. He According to Yoram Fogel, the architect working on modifications to the construction plan for building 3,500 houses in the “E-1” region between East Jerusalem and the “Ma'aleh Adumim” settlement, work on the plan was proceeding as usual. He said the Construction and Housing Ministry staff in the Jerusalem district, who ordered the work, was still demanding completion. Jerusalem District Head Moshe Merhavia said since no instructions to the contrary had come from the Housing Minister, the work was indeed progressing. “Ma'aleh Adumim” Mayor Benny Kashriel, within whose jurisdiction “E-1” falls, said the modifications pertained to access roads and parking lots, among others. He said there was no doubt the construction in the “E-1” area would be approved. (Ha’aretz)

At a meeting with Consuls and representatives of the European Union countries to the Palestinian Authority, PA Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa called for the activation of the European role to reach a two-state solution within the 1967 borders. Mr. Al-Kidwa reiterated the importance of the European role to take the measures necessary to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the separation wall. He also welcomed the appointment of former World Bank President James Wolfensohn as the Middle East Quartet's Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement. (PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

27

The IDF arrested Hammam Daraghmeh and Mohammed Daraghmeh, both 15, for carrying a homemade gun and 11 small explosive devices in a bag at the Jalameh crossing near Jenin. Meanwhile, a large number of Israeli troops stormed Arraba town, west of Jenin, breaking into and vandalizing the houses of prisoners Sami Hardan, Mohammed Ayyosh and Ahmed Bosta. In Hebron, Fuad Zedat, 35, was arrested. (AP, WAFA)

In an anti-disengagement protest, 40,000 Israelis marched from “Neve Dekalim” in the Gaza Strip to the “Gush Katif” settlement block where their main rally took place. Protestors were then bussed back to “Neve Dekalim”, where they marched along various settlements. (Ha’aretz)

Palestinian gunmen fired a Qassam rocket that landed a few dozen metres from an anti-disengagement march in the Gaza Strip, slightly wounding a soldier who was hit by shrapnel. The rocket struck as the march filed past the Mouassi, the Palestinian area in the heart of “Gush Katif”. Minutes later, a mortar shell landed on the central settlement of “Neve Dekalim”, which exploded without causing injuries. (Ha’aretz)

In Gaza, PA President Abbas condemned the latest Qassam rocket attacks. He said that they hurt the Palestinian national interest and were outside the national consensus. Mr. Abbas said that rocket fire should be stopped by “any means”. During a Fatah Central Committee meeting Mr. Abbas announced he had fired Palestinian police commander Saib el-Agaz and dozens of other senior security officers for their inability to halt mortar fire and Qassam rockets fired at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, just two days after Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared a ceasefire at the summit held in Sharm el-Sheikh on 8 February 2005. (Xinhua, ynetnews.com)

Israel might transfer the West Bank city of Qalqilya to Palestinian control next week, if the Palestinian Authority confiscated the weapons of wanted militants in the two cities that had already been handed over, Israel Radio reported. (dpa)

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) formed a committee to investigate the use of an Israeli X-ray facility for security checks at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. PLC sources said the committee would determine the danger inflicted by the radiation on the health of Palestinians. (Xinhua)

A Palestinian woman died at the Rafah crossing after being subjected to an Israeli radioactive detection device installed at the crossing to screen Palestinians passing through. Medics at Rafah said the woman, Fateh Abu Ubeid, 55, died 15 minutes after she was subjected to the device which, according to medics of the al-Aresh Hospital in Egypt, affected her heart and blood pressure. (WAFA)

PA Interior Minister Nasser Youssef vowed to carry on with what he described as "real and serious reforms" in all Palestinian security apparatuses. Mr. Youssef, who is also in charge of the PA security forces, told reporters that those reforms would reach every officer in every security and police apparatus. “The upcoming days will witness basic and deep changes and reforms in all security aspects,” he said. (Xinhua)

The Palestinian Authority had established a committee to investigate the death of former PA President Yasser Arafat and would file a report as soon as possible. (ynetnews.com)

Samir El-Youssef, a Palestinian writer living in exile in England, was awarded the annual Tucholsky Award by the Swedish chapter of the Pen Club. (AP)

In Cairo, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin began a Middle East visit meeting Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. At a press conference he announced that Russia proposed holding a Middle East peace conference in Moscow in the fall, with the participation of all the States concerned and the Quartet. Mr. Putin told reporters he would discuss the proposal with Prime Minister Sharon during his visit to Israel due to begin later in the day. Mr. Putin also said Foreign Ministers of the Quartet were to meet in Moscow on 8 May to discuss the Middle East peace process. At the end of talks both leaders issued a joint statement in which they called for full-scale realization of the Palestinian-Israeli agreements reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit on 8 February 2005. "The sides [Russian Federation and Egypt] are convinced that the earliest resumption of talks without preliminary conditions on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks would promote the attainment of a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including ending the occupation of all the Arab lands", the statement read. (Al-Jazeera, AP, RIA Novosti)

A senior Israeli official, in response to Russia’s President Putin's call for a Middle East peace conference in Moscow said, "We are very wary but not against it in principle". The official said Israel was committed to the A senior Israeli official, in response to Russia’s President Putin's call for a Middle East peace conference in Moscow said, "We are very wary but not against it in principle". The official said Israel was committed to the Road Map , which envisages a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. Under that plan, Palestinians are meant to dismantle militant groups while Israel freezes the growth of Jewish settlements. The Palestinian Authority welcomed President Putin's conference proposal, saying it would help prepare for final status negotiations following a ceasefire agreement and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and some parts of the West Bank. Commenting on Israel’s concern regarding such a conference, PA President Abbas said Israel did not want such conferences lest it be obliged to make commitments it did not want to make. (Reuters, WAFA)

PA Foreign Minister Al-Kidwa said President Abbas was scheduled to meet President Putin on 29 April in Ramallah. Mr. Al-Kidwa stated that it was the first visit of a Russian president to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, adding that President Abbas would discuss with Mr. Putin ways of unilateral coordination to push the peace process forward and the implementation of the Road Map , which provides for the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip. (WAFA)

PA Interior Minister Youssef met with US Security Coordinator Lt.-Gen. William Ward. The meeting focused on efforts by the PA to prepare for situations in the aftermath of the Israeli disengagement. Mr. Youssef briefed Gen. Ward on Israel’s continued attacks against Palestinians. He also stressed the intent of the PA to carry on with reforms in its security apparatus. (Xinhua)

A report by the Rand Corporation, a non-profit organization that conducts research on public policy questions, proposed the construction of a major rail and highway link between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to lay the groundwork for long-term development of a Palestinian state. The new corridor, called the ARC for its arc-like route, would support a high-speed 140-mile (225.30 kilometers) rail line, highway, aqueduct, energy network and fiber optic cable linking the major towns and cities of the new state. Among the communities to be connected would be Gaza City, Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus and Ramallah. The estimated cost for the first 10 years of operation would be about US$33 billion, with an estimated $6 billion for the construction of the rail and roads. The proposal would depend on a final peace agreement, as well as billions of dollars in international assistance and investment. Construction of the corridor would create an estimated 100,000 to 160,000 jobs for Palestinians over five years, the report stated. The report was being distributed to US, Israeli, Palestinian, Arab and European officials. (The Jerusalem Post)

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IDF forces arrested four Palestinians near Bethlehem and Hebron, and in Nablus, according to a Palestinian source. Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers set up a military checkpoint on the main road that linked Beit Sahour and Abedia towns, and started stopping cars before arresting two Palestinians from the Deir Salah village, east of Bethlehem. Meanwhile, Naif Naserallah, 27, was arrested when soldiers, backed by tanks and armoured vehicles, entered the town of Al-Dahria, south of Hebron. Elsewhere, Mohammed Ryahi was arrested in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. (WAFA)

Hundreds of Israelis broke into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Eyewitnesses said groups of extremists, consisting of about 50 individuals each, broke into the area of the Mosque, one after the other. (WAFA)

For the second day, Israeli soldiers closed the main road linking the northern Gaza Strip to its western section. Eyewitnesses said thousands of Palestinians were unable to reach their homes and places of work, adding that those tough measures caused complete paralysis, especially in the economic and education sectors. (WAFA)

In a speech to Palestinian police, PA President Abbas said he would use “an iron fist” against anyone who violated the ceasefire with Israel. Mr. Abbas also pledged to maintain quiet during the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. “We have to give them a calm departure,” he said, adding, “Whoever wants to sabotage [the truce] with rocket fire or shooting must be stopped by us, even if that requires using force. There is national consensus regarding the calm, and whoever leaves this consensus will be struck by an iron fist.” (Albawaba.com, AP, Ha’aretz)

The IDF was considering building a wall through the city of Hebron to reduce tension and prevent clashes between Palestinians and settlers, a military source said. The army had asked the Israeli Justice Ministry to examine the legality of such a project, the source said. “The matter is not at the decision-making level. It is brainstorming to find a solution to the complex situation [in Hebron]. This [barrier proposal] is one option.” The proposed wall would be several kilometres long and divide the city along the line of Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled sections as stipulated in the Hebron Agreement of 1997. Hebron Governor Arif Al-Jabari said, “This will not lead us to peace. We appeal to the United States, the international community and human rights groups to stop the aggression against Palestinians in Hebron.” ( Ma’ariv, Reuters)

An Israeli Government source said Israel would not allow in the troop carriers promised to the PA by Russian Federation President Putin. “First let’s see some steps toward peace and then it will be possible to strengthen the Palestinian security forces, which are meanwhile taking part in fighting against us,” the source said. The source also said that if President Putin raised the issue during his visit in Israel, he would be told “now is not the time.” Mr. Putin’s proposal for an international conference on the Middle East, which had been raised during his visit to Cairo, was also rejected by Israel. US White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “We believe there will be an appropriate time for an international conference, but we are not at that stage now and I don’t expect that we will be there by the fall.” (AP, Ha’aretz)

PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat told Voice of Palestine that an international conference fell within the framework of the Road Map . He said, “Israel says its intended disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank is part of the Road Map peace plan, not an alternative to it, so why these reservations and suspicions?” (Xinhua)

Russia’s President Putin said he would continue efforts for promoting the process of a Middle East settlement. “Russia, as an active member of the Group of Four [Quartet], is ready to promote the process of [a] Middle East settlement. We believe there are possibilities at present for reaching a fair Palestinian-Israeli settlement. Much depends on the goodwill of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to act in accordance with the agreements reached in Sharm el-Sheikh,” he said. (Itar-Tass)

The United States welcomed PA President Abbas’ pledge to crack down on violence with an “iron fist” and praised him for bringing “energy and activism” to the Middle East peace process. Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington had long been looking for firm militant action to end anti-Israel violence by Islamic militants. “Statements such as these by President Abbas, I think, support that goal, and we are strongly supportive of his efforts and they are to be encouraged,” he said. (AFP)

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Asia Roundtable in Singapore, King Abdullah II of Jordan said the Road Map between Israeli and Palestine was an opportunity that must not be missed. “We are committed to a just and fair solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he said. He also noted that the Road Map had been affirmed by the international community, accepted by the two parties and represented a vital effort. (DPA)

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said he supported an international conference on peace in the Middle East but was cautious about dates put forward by Russian Federation President Putin. He said, “The Road Map … is clear in a second phase that a conference has to take place.” He added, “I cannot say that it will be in the fall or what month of the year or what month next year.” The news conference was held after a meeting with James Wolfensohn, the Quartet’s Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, who said he was going from Brussels to Paris to meet with donors from Europe, Japan and Australia before heading to the region where he “will have the opportunity for meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership.” (AFP)

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit hailed Russian Federation President Putin’s proposal to convene a Middle East peace conference next fall, saying his country might help organize the event. “This is a reasonable proposal, which must be discussed so that the concerned parties do not refuse it outright,” he said. (AFP)

PA and US officials inaugurated a new wing added to a local primary school in the village of Frush Beit Dajan in the West Bank. According to USAID, the American people contributed US$88,000 through the Agency. The village council paid another $7,000 in designs and site supervision. Present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony was PA Chief Negotiator Erakat and USAID Director in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip James Bever. The new wing included four classrooms and a teachers’ room, accommodating additional class levels beyond the sixth grade. (WAFA)

Businessmen from Israel, Turkey and the Occupied Palestinian Territory met in Ankara as part of an initiative to boost economic cooperation and peace efforts in the region, a spokesman of the group said. “We want to contribute to the peace process by doing business,” according to Mr. Hisarciklioglu, head of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Stock Exchanges (TOBB). The initiative, called the Ankara Forum for Turkish-Israeli-Palestinian Economic Cooperation, comprised the TOBB, the Israeli Manufacturers Association and the Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture. (AFP)

29

Six West Bank settlers were arrested by IDF troops after throwing stones at Palestinians near Nablus. A senior IDF field commander was also wounded by the settlers. The six detainees, residents of the “Bracha” settlement, were caught by soldiers attacking Palestinians working in a quarry near the village of Burin. (Ha’aretz)

A Palestinian security source said two members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had been arrested and questioned by Preventive Security Service forces after rocket attacks on Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. A spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said, “We urge the Palestinian Authority and Abbas to release our two fighters.” (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

At a joint press conference in Ramallah with Russian Federation President Putin, PA President Abbas welcomed “the convening of an international conference. The conditions are ripe.” Mr. Putin said, “We have not renounced our proposition to hold an international meeting in Moscow in the autumn for a resolution to the Middle East. It is not a summit but a meeting of high-level experts,” also noting that a meeting of the Quartet was scheduled for 8 and 9 May in Moscow. Mr. Putin also promised assistance from Moscow to the PA to implement a programme of reforms and rebuild its economy. “Russia will continue to offer aid to the Palestinian Authority to implement reforms and construct a state. We are currently examining several options with a view to Russia’s participation in the rebuilding of the Palestinian economy.” President Putin also confirmed plans to equip the PA with two helicopters. He did not mention a proposal to supply the PA with some armoured personnel carriers. He said, “In the first stage, we will deliver aviation technology, helicopters. … If we expect President Abbas to fight effectively against terrorism we cannot expect him to do this with stones.” (AFP, BBC, Itar-Tass, Reuters, www.Kremlin.ru)

Israel rejected a US proposal to supply the Palestinian police officers in the West Bank with weapons that would assist them in performing their duties. American officials have told their Israeli counterparts over the past few days that Palestinian security forces needed weapons to maintain order in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israeli officials reacted with a negative reply saying, “Let them first take the weapons from the terrorists.” A security source said Lt.-Gen. William Ward, US Security Coordinator for the Middle East, “did not ask to supply the Palestinian police officers with weapons, but merely asked what Israel’s position would be regarding Russia’s request to give the Palestinian police armoured vehicles. He was told that Israel was opposed to this.” (Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

Israel rejected PA President Abbas’ plan to absorb Palestinian militants into the Palestinian security forces. Calling the plan “unacceptable,” Israel informed the PA that it was opposed to an arrangement under which militants wanted by Israel would be able to keep their arms and be recruited by security forces. (Ha’aretz, Xinhua)

Marwan Barghouti, jailed PLC member, criticized Israel’s disengagement plan as not going far enough and said the move would not guarantee peace. In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera , he said, “The Gaza withdrawal has been secured not through the skills of the negotiators but by the arms of the uprising. It’s partial. If the situation remains as it is, it will not bring peace and stability.” Mr. Barghouti also said he would back PA President Abbas in his efforts to renew the Palestinian leadership. “But there must be no compromises, no exceptions made. Someone who gets removed from a job after years of bad management must not be rewarded with some kind of ministerial role,” he said. (Reuters)

At a meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Sharon and President Katsav, Russian Federation President Putin he urged the Prime Minister to support, not pressure, PA President Abbas on the Middle East peace process. Mr. Putin told the Prime Minister, "There are two approaches. You can pressure Abbas or you can support him. …” Mr. Sharon advised President Putin that he was prepared to help Abbas but “not at the cost of Jewish lives.” He also assured President Putin that Israel was committed to the Road Map but said the PA must dismantle militant groups and not absorb them into the political system, which was what PA President Abbas was attempting to do and which was contrary to the provisions of the Road Map. (Ha’aretz).

A memorandum from President Bush to Secretary of State Rice announced that US$34.7 million would be “made available from the US Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to support unexpected urgent humanitarian needs in the West Bank and Gaza, and refugee repatriation to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” The decision would allow the State Department to contribute up to $20 million to UNRWA. (AFP, www.whitehouse.gov)

The 1.4-million-member United Church of Christ (UCC) was to vote in July 2005 on whether to divest from certain US firms doing business with Israel, a protest against its occupation of Palestinian territories, church officials said. The resolution calls Caterpillar Inc. an initial divestment candidate. It was one of three Israel-related measures recently approved by the UCC’s executive council to be presented at its biennial national conference, known as a general synod and comprised of about 700 delegates, who are either elected by 39 regional conferences or are board members of its four national ministries. An alternative measure calls for an initial study on the divestment issue. A third urges Israel to dismantle its separation wall. (Los Angeles Times)

US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., announced that he intended to visit the Middle East during the upcoming Senate recess “to gain a deeper, first-hand understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to learn what America can do to help move that process forward”. Sen. Frist’s office said he planned to stop in Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt and would be posting “Notes From The Road” on his official website each day during the trip. Sen. Frist arrived in Israel on 1 May, planning, among other things, to tour the separation wall. (AP, UPI)

30

Israeli security forces captured two unarmed Palestinians attempting to infiltrate Israel from the Gaza Strip near the “Kissufim” border crossing, a military spokesman said, adding that it was the latest in around 50 attempted infiltrations since the beginning of 2005. The spokesman also said that Palestinian militants fired a mortar round at the “Gush Katif” settlement in the southern Gaza Strip in the morning, damaging a house but causing no casualties. He further said that the previous afternoon, Palestinian militants had fired several mortar shells at the “Neveh Dekalim” settlement west of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported. (AFP, Xinhua)

PA Interior Minister Nasser Yousef met with Palestinian security chiefs in Gaza to coordinate a crackdown on growing lawlessness in Palestinian areas. “There will be a general campaign on different levels, starting from today, to stop any kind of activity against the law and to prevent anyone from violating the law,” said Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, a spokesman for Mr. Yousef, who oversees the Palestinian security forces. While the security forces may disarm gangs, there will be no move to disarm militant groups. However, the forces would act against rogue elements who break the ceasefire, Mr. Abu Khoussa said. (AP, Reuters)

Fatah decided to select its nominees for the 17 July legislative elections, and started registration to participate in the preparatory internal elections on 7-8 May in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The nominees would be chosen on 21 May. PLC Deputy Speaker Hassan Khreishe also told Voice of Palestine that members of the PLO Executive Committee were to meet with PLC legislators in Ramallah on 2 May to discuss the new amended election law. (Xinhua)

A senior Palestinian official announced that preparations for holding the second phase of municipal elections had been completed and the elections would be held on 5 May. Jamal Shoubaki told reporters that the second phase would include 84 municipal councils for towns and cities, with 76 in the West Bank and 8 in the Gaza Strip. “There were several obstacles and violations made by Israeli occupation forces during preparations for the second phase,” Mr. Shoubaki said, calling on the Quartet to interfere to stop those obstacles. He said that Israel was interfering in the elections by imposing measures on candidates. Mr. Shoubaki said that the number of candidates running for the second phase reached 2,519, with 2,192 in the West Bank and 327 in the Gaza Strip, including 340 women in the West Bank and 59 women in the Gaza Strip. There were 400,605 eligible voters, with 270,480 in the West Bank and 130,125 in the Gaza Strip. It had not been decided when the third and last phase of municipal elections would be held. (Xinhua)

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades demanded that the PA release two of its members arrested for involvement in firing Qassam rockets. The Brigades’ spokesman said the Hassan Ebeyat branch of the Brigades fired on 27 April homemade rockets at the “Kfar Darom” settlement in the central Gaza Strip to avenge Israel’s continuous attacks against the Palestinian people, and added that firing rockets did not break the announced calmness because no rockets were fired at Israeli targets inside the Green Line. (Xinhua)

The PFLP selected its jailed chairman, Ahmed Sa’adat, to be a candidate in the July legislative elections. Mr. Sa’adat had been imprisoned in a Palestinian jail in Jericho, guarded by American and British security officers, since 2003. His detention was part of an agreement with Israel after Israel said it would target him, if he was not jailed. Israel accused Mr. Sa’adat of being involved in the assassination of Israeli minister of tourism Rehavam Ze’evy two years ago. (UPI)


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