16 Gazans killed, 38 injured in December 2010

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And other news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers/ Land, Property, Resource Theft & Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing
New state budget gives settlements NIS 2 billion – and more
Security expenses for settlers living in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem went up in the new budget, reaching NIS 3,160 per settler.

The struggle for East Jerusalem
Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem are waging a campaign of popular resistance against Israeli land confiscation.

Rotim Settlers Seize Land Near Tubas; Minister Arrested in Hebron
Tubas – PNN – A group of settlers from the Rotim settlement, built near the northern West Bank town of Tubas, seized at least 30 dunums of Palestinian land on Thursday.  Aref Dharaghmeh, a local official, said the settlers came in the middle of the night from Rotim—nearby Tubas—and seized the 30 dunums (about 7 acres). At least one settler was seen plowing the land.

East Jerusalem: Israeli demolitions continue
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Eleven structures in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur were demolished by Israeli forces on Wednesday, and several dunums of lands bulldozed.  The demolitions followed court actions determining that the buildings were constructed without permits. In two cases on Saturday, families decided to demolish parts of their own homes when they were handed demolition orders by the Jerusalem municipality earlier in the week.  “The Municipality only takes down illegal buildings when the owners have refused to do so. In Jerusalem, like everywhere else in the world. by law, illegal structures have to be taken down,” a municipality spokesman said.

Court orders mosque to be demolished in Occupied East Jerusalem
Ramallah: The Jerusalem Local Affairs Court passed a verdict ordering the immediate demolition of the only mosque in Al Sawanah area in Occupied East Jerusalem.  The mosque occupies the ground floor of a twin building owned by Mohammad Mahmoud Abu Farha in Al Sawanah area, which is between the old city and the Al Zaitoun Mountain, and close to Al Aqsa Mosque Compound.  Omar Al Kaswani, the Imam of the mosque told Gulf News that the mosque was built about 15 years ago and served the residents of Al Sawanah area. Fakhri Abu Diab, a Palestinian Activist and Member of the Silwan Defence Committee told Gulf News that the court’s verdict was a clear indication that the Israelis were targeting the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim and Christian existence in the holy city. Meanwhile, Israeli troops yesterday seized a Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament, the fifth to be rearrested recently after serving previous prison terms, local officials said.

Judaization of Jerusalem includes “defacing walls of the Old City”
The Al-Aqsa Foundation stressed that the heritage of Jerusalem is largely Arab and Islamic; Israeli efforts to claim an elusive “Hebrew history,” it says, “are doomed to failure”.  A leading Palestinian foundation has accused the Israeli occupation authorities of defacing the walls of the historic Old City with Jewish symbols, including stone reliefs of models of the proposed temple. The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage has said that the Judaization policy is part of ongoing crimes against history, civilization and Arab and Islamic heritage in Occupied Jerusalem carried out by the state of Israel.

Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
#BDS: Letter from senior European officials supports BDS approach on Israel
On December 2nd, a group of very high-level European ex-officials wrote to the President of the European Council to urge that the EU take much stronger action to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law, including the construction of settlements on occupied land, which is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

#BDS: An open letter from Gaza to Thomas Quasthoff: Do not Forget the Gaza Concentration Camp and “Tell It like It Is!”
We are a group of artists, singers, academics and students from Gaza, and our only fault is being Palestinians. For that, Mr. Quasthoff, we are imprisoned with our families and loved ones in what even main-stream Human Rights Organizations call the largest open air prison in modern history.  It has come to our knowledge that you have plans to perform in Apartheid Israel.  The state you are planning to entertain has been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against us, the indigenous population of Palestine.

#BDS: 2010 and the Palestinian cause
In the beginning of 2010 the world saw international activists protest in Cairo to pressure the Egyptian regime into opening its borders for them to enter Gaza with their aid convoys.  They eventually succeeded and in the following months hundreds of international activists managed to break the siege of Gaza. The most famous of them was the Freedom Flotilla, which had 663 passengers from approximately 40 nationalities.

As a new year of resistance dawns, help ISM to support the popular resistance in Palestine
As 2010 comes to an end, the struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people continues. Consider yourself a pillar of strength for the volunteers of the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Donate today and the impact will be felt immediately by Palestine solidarity activists, from around the globe, residing in Palestine and resisting the occupation.  Despite the real threat of physical harm, deportation, night raids and arrest, activists continue to join ISM and employ nonviolent direct action tactics in the struggle for justice. ISM is one of the few organizations working directly with Palestinians in the popular struggle against the occupation. As the resistance grows, so does the demand for ISM volunteers. We cannot answer the call without you.

Egypt allows Asia to Gaza Caravan entry, excludes Iranians
Cairo has finally given approval to the Asian aid convoy to enter Gaza via Al-Arish, but has denied entry to Iranian activists,-excludes-.aspx

Role of Israeli firms raises boycott concerns about Rawabi
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee in Palestine, has expressed its concern following reports that Israeli companies have been contracted to take part in the construction of Rawabi, an already controversial Qatari-financed Palestinian real estate development in the occupied West Bank.

Beit Hanoun demonstration commemorates 2 years since the Gaza attacks as victims’ families mourn, Adie Mormech
A demonstration commemorating the beginning of “Operation Cast Lead” was held Tuesday in the Gazan city of Beit Hanoun. Families of victims were in attendance, as were 5 International Solidarity Movement activists. Two years have passed since the Israeli attacks on Gaza, which killed over 1400 people in just 23 days. The vast majority of victims were civilians, including 350 children, according to the United Nations and other major human rights organizations.

Humanitarian Issues/Human Rights
Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (23 – 29 December. 2010)

Gaza Strip land crossings weekly status report 19-25 Dec 2010

Single Gaza goods terminal operates
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities informed Palestinian crossings officials that one Gaza crossing would be partially opened on Thursday for the limited transfer of goods into the coastal enclave, liaison officer Raed Fattouh told Ma’an.  Between 190 to 200 truckloads of goods including 20 new cars and five truckloads of cement for UNRWA projects were will be allowed into Gaza via the southernmost crossing, Kerem Shalom.

Gaza Fishermen Face Death at Sea and Poverty at Home
Gaza City – Muhammad al-Astal – Al-Quds – Palestinian fishermen face great difficulties at work on the Mediterranean Sea: even after continual naval assaults by Israeli troops that have lead to several recent deaths and injuries and major damage to their boats and fishing equipment, there is still the fact that they are forbidden from fishing in deep water and go home without enough to feed their families.  Sami Bakr, 31, says that despite the great effort he exerted to avoid Israeli gunfire in his small boat, he failed: his cousin Muhammad died of injuries sustained from an Israeli raid. Most of his fishing equipment s destroyed as well.

2010: Serious violations and isolated improvements
In its end of year summary, B’Tselem warns that the continued siege on Gaza and the settlement enterprise prevent any real human rights improvement.

Petitioning the Israeli High Court for justice – Raji Sourani
The reality of life in the Gaza Strip is hard to convey. Individuals throughout the world have seen the pictures and the images: shootings and maiming, air strikes and artillery shelling, and the unforgettably horrific sight of white phosphorous raining down over Gaza city. However, beneath these images lies a complex reality.

Racism & Discrimination
Never again? Elderly Palestinian women called “whores” on Yad Vashem tour, while racism explodes across Israel (Updated)
This week, a group of elderly Palestinian women were escorted to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance musuem to learn about the Jewish genocide in Europe. At the entrance of the museum, they were surrounded by a group of Jewish Israeli youth who recognized them as Arabs. “Sharmouta!” the young Israelis shouted at them again and again, using the Arabic slang term for whores, or sluts.

Arab MK to Ask Israeli Education Minister to Investigate Arabic Ban in Jaffa Schools
Nazareth – PNN – Masoud Ganaim, an Israeli Arab Minister of Knesset (MK), representative of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and member of the Knesset Education Committee, promised on Thursday to bring discuss with Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sayer the issue of the school principal in Jaffa who banned students from speaking Arabic in his classrooms.  Arab students make up about half of “School Z” in Jaffa, where the incident occurred, and the principal’s justification was that Arabic was “indecent.” According to Ganaim, there was a double standard present in which Arabic—an official language of Israel—was banned whereas Russian Israeli students were allowed to speak Russian.  Ganaim said he would ask Sayer to take “effective steps” against the principal as an example to counter what he said was a growing tide of racism in Israeli schools. Earlier this week, students’ families demonstrated outside of the school in Jaffa.

16 Gazans killed, 38 injured in December 2010
Israel carried out in December 2010 more than 105 attacks targeting Gazans, killing 16 and injuring 38, said Adham Abu Salmiyya, spokesman for Gaza’s emergency authority, in statement to the PIC.

Gazan scrap collector faces death during Israeli incursion
This morning Mahmoud Mousa Mohammed Al Sirsik, aged 19, was going about his daily business, collecting stones with his horse cart in the border area, east of Gaza City, when Israeli army jeeps entered the area. Seeing the danger approaching, Mahmoud tried to run away, but found himself immobilized as the army trapped him in a rain of bullets to his left and right. One bullet hit a nearby object; a piece of shrapnel bounced back and pierced the young man’s nostril. The injured Mahmoud managed to hide for half-an-hour while the shooting from the jeeps continued and were even reinforced by a tank crossing into Gaza.

Settler and Military Violence Escalates in South Hebron Hills
The Villages Group – “Yesterday, Tuesday December 28, at 3 AM, Hajja Sara woke up to the sound of her dogs barking. Coming out of her living tent she saw her two adjacent kitchen tents going up in flames (pictures above).”

IOF soldiers detain six Palestinians, settlers attack farmers
Israeli occupation forces rounded up six Palestinian citizens in various areas of the West Bank at dawn Thursday at the pretext of being wanted for interrogation.

Israel rearrests another Hamas MP in W.Bank (AFP)
AFP – Israeli troops on Thursday seized a Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament, the fifth to be rearrested recently after serving previous prison terms, local officials said.*

Israeli army arrests six Palestinians in West Bank
RAMALLAH, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) — The Israeli army arrested six Palestinians in the West Bank Thursday, including a Hamas lawmaker, witnesses and security sources said.  The detention of the member of the Palestinian Legislative Council took place in Hebron city, the security sources said, adding that the soldiers broke into his house.

On the Anniversary of the Israeli Offensive on Gaza, Addameer Calls Attention to the 686 Gazans Detained in Israeli Prisons
Addameer – In June 2007, as part of its policy of treating the Gaza Strip as an enemy entity following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Israel implemented a total prohibition on family visits to prisoners from Gaza. In addition, starting in November 2009, Israel has effectively prevented these prisoners from receiving money from their families to buy basic necessities by requiring that transfers of money be conditional on the physical presence of a family member at an Israeli bank—an impossibility for families residing in the Gaza Strip.

Eight Detainees Injured, Dozens Treated For Gaza Inhalation After Being Attacked By Soldiers
Undercover Forces of the Nahshon Israeli Military Unit, broke on Wednesday at night into the Ofer Israeli military detention center, and attacked Palestinian detainees wounding eight while dozens suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation.

Dozens of prisoners injured in jailors’ storming of their wards in Ofer
Special forces of the Israeli prison service known as the Nahshon stormed the Ofer military prison on Wednesday night, beat up prisoners, and fired gas bombs at them hurting dozens.

Detainees reveal how IOF soldiers shot at, wounded them
Israeli occupation forces (IOF) willfully shot at two Palestinians then arrested them while sitting in their car in Al-Khalil without any justification other than opening the window of their car.

Israel’s Arab Helpers
Assange: I’ll reveal info that will spark Arab world coups
WikiLeaks founder tells Al Jazeera leaked documents in his possession show top Arab officials disclose sensitive information to CIA.,7340,L-4006990,00.html

PA boosts summonses targeting Islamic Jihad Movement in the West Bank
PA security militias have recently boosted steps to summon Islamic Jihad cadres and supporters in the West Bank for questioning, the movement said.

PA waging battle against Islamic Jihad, party says
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Dozens of Islamic Jihad members and affiliates have received summons to appear before Palestinian Authority intelligence officials over the past week, party officials told Ma’an on Thursday.  Accusing the PA of targeting members of the movement, particularly in the Jenin and Tulkarem regions, Islamic Jihad officials said the wave was an “escalation” and targeted student groups and community centers connected to the movement.

Hamas: PA detained 15 party members overnight
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Hamas leadership in the West Bank accused PA forces of arresting 15 party members in region in a Thursday morning statement received by Ma’an.  The individuals detained were from the regions of Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Salfit, the statement said.

Al-Azhar Sheikh demands Abbas to end arrest and torture of citizens in W. Bank
Grand Sheik of Cairo’s Al-Azhar university and mosque Ahmed Attayb called on Mahmoud Abbas to end the political arrest and torture of citizens in the West Bank.

Political Developments/Other News
Norway’s recent decision to follow the UN’s terrorist designation list instead of the EU’s does mean that Norway no longer officially considers Hamas a terrorist organization.
Gjelstad assured us that this decision was taken to allow Norway to better facilitate peace efforts in Sri Lanka (the LTTE is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU, but not
the by the UN), not with a view toward establishing a future relationship with Hamas. Gjelstad acknowledged that there is no domestic legal reason for Norway not to meet with Hamas, but this is a step that politically Norway does not envisage at this time and Norway had no current plans to receive Hamas at a senior or political level. He also assured us that Norway would not initiate any political overture to Hamas without close prior consultation with the US and other western donors.

Islamic Jihad refuses role in Haniyeh gov’t
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Maintaining its position as a extra-political movement, Islamic Jihad officials said Thursday that they had refused a seat on Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s new government. “With all our appreciation for the invitation from our brothers in Hamas, we of the Islamic Jihad will not take part in the government,” a statement from leader Nafeth A’zam read, noting the movement’s history of abstentions from local, national and presidential elections.

Netanyahu: Palestinians evading negotiations with Israel
Prime minister blames PA for impasse in peace talks, says Israeli government, under his leadership, is striving for peace.

Survey: Arabs to form majority in historic Palestine after 2014
RAMALLAH, Occuiped West Bank: The Arab population in “historic Palestine” will equal the Jewish population by 2014, and quickly outstrip it thereafter, according to Palestinian statistics released Thursday.  The figures published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics show the Arab population in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip nearing the size of the Jewish population, but with a significantly higher birth rate.

2010 sees drop in Palestinian attacks: Shin Bet (AFP)
AFP – The year 2010 saw the fewest militant attacks against Israel and the least number of casualties since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising a decade ago, the Shin Bet security agency said Thursday.*

U.K. envoy said Israel ready to use nuclear bomb in 1980, newly released cables reveal
Documents, released under Britain’s 30-year rule, include Marget Thatcher saying that Israel’s settlement policy was ‘absurd.’

lsraeli ex-president guilty of rape
Judges say Moshe Katsav’s testimony was “riddled with lies” before passing verdict in Tel Aviv.

Israel, Hamas and Hizbullah
ISRAEL has enjoyed unusual quiet on its northern and southern borders since its short, bruising wars against Hizbullah, the Lebanese guerrilla force, in 2006, and Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction ruling Gaza, two years later. Yet many fear that the calm is illusory. “The next round won’t be focused on one theatre but rather will incorporate two or three,” warned Israel’s outgoing head of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, in November. “It will be much bigger, much wider in scope, and with many more casualties.”

Closer to a Palestinian State, Marcela Valente
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 30, 2010 (IPS) – With the string of announcements in South America of recognition of a Palestinian state this month, the region’s integration process showed a new interest in and capacity to reach common positions in the realm of foreign policy.

Hedy Epstein, an inspiration (and star of Egypt), Sandra Tamari:
Hedy Epstein, 85-year old Holocaust survivor and tireless champion for Palestinian rights, traveled to Cairo in December 2009 to participate in the Gaza Freedom March. This was her third attempt to visit Gaza and break the siege. She has visited the West Bank several times since 2003 and tried to board the Mavi Marmara last May to be part of the Freedom Flotilla. She organizes a monthly vigil with Women in Black in St. Louis and speaks widely about the situation in Palestine and Israel. I was one of the St. Louis delegates who accompanied Hedy during the march.

My first trip to Palestine, Morgan Bach
My first trip to Palestine has left me discouraged, confused, and at times just seething mad, but somewhere in the last two days I found the thread in my jumble of thoughts, my take-away, my inspiration. It lies in my evolving understanding of resistance in Palestine. When I arrived, I only knew that it was justified.

The land, the gun, the olive tree, Sameeha Elwan
In Memory of Nakba–  He closed his eyes when the smell of the thyme found its way to the deepest memory his mind is still tirelessly clinging to. He opened them with a persistence to inhale as much of the smell as he can. Something that would help him live on the memory a bit longer. Something that would compensate the years of wait. They didn’t give him a chance to preserve that smell deep in his heart sixty two years ago; but it has been in his memory locked, never been forgotten since. He, now, couldn’t believe his eyes when the smell was combined with the real vision of the field. His field. He wished “Um Salem” would be there to pinch him as she always did when he was trapped between a vision and a reality. She was not there to share him the vision. “It’s not the time for mourning”, he thought. He was there, at last. For sixty two years, the scene of the olive tree he and his grandfather once planted and he watched growing up never escaped his memory along with the hymn his grandmother used to sing him while baking bread on “Taboun”. He remembers some of its lyrics. They were always so patriotic. “The land, the gun, the olive tree”.

Year of the Flash Mob, Rae Abileah and Colleen Kelly
We in Generation Y (children of the ‘80s and younger) have been known to express a desire to try something new, beyond the looping renditions of “Give Peace a Chance” and marchers carrying the same flowery peace signs at anti-war rallies of past movements. We have been eager and willing to innovate our own style and culture of protest. This is precisely what is happening in the wave of flash mobs that has swept across the West Bank, Israel, the US and around the world this year. We’d like to nominate flash mobs for justice and equality in the Middle East for a 2010 Mondo Award.

For taking the profit out of occupation– Dalit Baum and Merav Amir, Nancy Kricorian
As the Campaign Manager for CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott Campaign, I had been working with Dalit Baum and Merav Amir, the lead researchers of Who Profits (a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace) for over a year and a half via e-mail when I finally met them in November 2010 at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine London Session, which was focused on corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of international law, activists, human rights campaigners, jurists, and attorneys testified about companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

For the indomitable people of al-Araqib, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours
It was 6 a.m. when the Israeli police invaded al-Araqib for the third time. Still half-asleep, I stood alongside village residents and Israeli and international activists, trying in vain to stop the impending home demolitions. Thin tarps were ripped from wooden beams, water tanks were dragged away and mounds of sand were poured over each article of the families’ belongings, making it nearly impossible to salvage any materials.

Israeli leftists have a racist past, too
Here, with the exception of a few enthusiastic young people, there is no struggle. Even the trickle of people refusing to serve in the army has dried up. The politicians benefit from this dead end: It lets them run from microphone to microphone and organize “coalition crises.” The military leadership prattles on about our “damaged deterrent capabilities” like a beggar with his cup. And the rabble are brought into the streets to demonstrate about Jewish virgins.

Hope in 2011: Peoples, Civil Society Stand Tall, Ramzy Baroud
When the Iraqi army fell before invading US and British troops in 2003, the latter’s mission seemed to be accomplished. But nearly eight years after the start of a war intended to shock and awe a whole population into submission, the Iraqi people continue to stand tall. They have confronted and rejected foreign occupations, held their own against sectarianism, and challenged random militancy and senseless acts of terrorism.

Israeli Repression Hardens, Palestinian Recognition Increases, Stephen Lendman
On December 24, Ecuador became the fifth Latin American country to recognize ‘the Palestine state as free and independent within its borders since 1967.’  An accompanying statement read: “Sadly, the Middle East continues to face wars and violent events that have led to the death of many innocent people, a situation contrary to the humane and pacifist position established by the Ecuadorian Constitution. This recognition is meant to reinforce the valid and legitimate wish of the Palestin(ian) people to have their own free and independent state.” Having it is “fundamental to achieve the peaceful co-existence of the nations in the region through dialogue and mediation.”

Bradley Burston: Israel’s Government as a Settlement, Lieberman as the New Sharon
Keen to avoid elections at literally all costs, Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions in recent weeks mean that his government now meets the five essential criteria of a settlement.

Shlaim shills for empire, Max Ajl
Avi Shlaim is relatively sound on Israeli political history and pretty unsound on quite a few other things, among them Zionism, a solution to the conflict, and the Nakba. Although The Iron Wall is a pretty good book, I consider him something close to providing flak for the Zionist entity. In that respect, I just finished reading Shlaim’s recent article on The Hill, “Obama and Israel: The pessimistic perspective a couple days ago.” The article gets everything wrong—Shlaim’s mind is not a sharp cutting instrument. He starts by taking standard IR analytical units, nation-states, and tells his readers in Washington, D.C. that the “American-Israeli special relationship is a classic example of the tail that wags the dog.” These terms obscure more than they reveal, in part because they treat as a bundle a set of policies whose drivers vary depending on the range of their effects. It’d be one thing to discuss undue Zionist influence on American policy-making vis-a-vis the Israel-Palestine conflict in a local newspaper. It’s quite another to blunder into the debate in a Capitol Hill house organ, where that kind of talk will have no plausible effect whatsoever–Shlaim writes as though policy-makers simply need to be coaxed with a bunch of rusty cliches into a better understanding of the “national interest.”

Book Review: Europe’s Alliance with Israel
David Cronin’s immensely valuable new book, Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation, charts how the European Union and its member states back Israel, and dispels the idea that the US is the only game in town (and that those of us who aren’t resident there can therefore change nothing), while also offering activists new targets for institutional lobbying and boycotts.

Who says Christians and Muslims can’t live together? | Yvette Khoury
I worship Allah and I am not a Muslim. I celebrate eid, and it is not a Muslim festival. I attended al-madrasa, but it was not a Muslim school. How might one explain what some perceive as contradictory terms? Allah, eid and madrasa are the Arabic words for God, festival and school, respectively. Therefore as an Arabic-speaking Christian these terms were part of my childhood vocabulary and so should have retained their apparent meanings. However, Allah, eid and madrasa have in recent times become associated with Islam and Muslims; they continue to be exploited and at times misused by the media.

Israel’s Discovery of Natural Gas Threatens Lebanon’s Rights
30/12/2010 At the time gas prices are surging in Lebanon and the Lebanese people are suffering from this confusing phenomenon, and at the time the Lebanese treasury deficit nears $2.03 billion, the largest reserve of natural gas, over 16 trillion cubic feet, has been discovered off the coast of the occupied territories, and is estimated to be worth more than $95 billion.  The reserve, Leviathon, is the largest amount of natural gas discovered in the world in the last decade and is located in approximately 5,400 feet (1,645 meters) of water, about 130 kilometers offshore of Haifa and 29 miles (47 kilometers) southwest of the Tamar discovery.  Hezbollah had blared warnings months ago that Israel plans to steal natural gas from Lebanese territory but vowed to defend the resources. Israel’s fields could extend into Lebanese waters while the maritime boundary, still officially at war, has never been precisely set. The warnings from Hezbollah and Lebanon Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri aimed to press for the passage of a long-delayed draft oil law, needed before any Lebanese fields can be developed, but yet no decrees for the implementation of the oil law was adopted.

Sectarian tensions loom in Lebanon refugee camps
Tensions are escalating in Ain al-Helweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon as Sunni- Shiite sectarianism started dividing residents amid fears of a civil war.

Thursday: 2 Iraqis Killed, 17 Wounded
At least two Iraqis were killed in the latest violence while 17 more were wounded. Christians were targeted in at least two attacks in Baghdad, even as Parliament Speaker Usama al-Nujeifi met with Christian leaders to express his solidarity with the minority group. Meanwhile, Iraq Body Count released preliminary civilian casualty figures for 2010.

Two Christians killed in Baghdad attacks (AFP)
AFP – At least two Christians were killed and nine wounded in a string of six attacks on Christian homes in Baghdad on Thursday, an interior ministry official said.*

Lucky few Iraqi Christians find refuge in France
A French mission to rescue victims of a church massacre in Baghdad has raised questions about the fairness of such operations, with rights groups calling for the rescue of all Iraq’s threatened groups, not just Christians.

Research links rise in Falluja birth defects and cancers to US assault
• Defects in newborns 11 times higher than normal
• ‘War contaminants’ from 2004 attack could be cause

Drug addicts in Baghdad in mounting numbers
Medical statistics conducted in 2008 show that there are about 1462 drug addicts in Baghdad only. Specialists however believe the number of drug addicts exceeds mentioned figures. For more details, click on play movie.

Reviving Iraq’s film industry
After seven years of war, one of the few industries in Iraq that is prospering is film-making. Under the Saddam regime movies were strictly controlled, but now directors are telling stories about their experiences of war. Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf reports from Baghdad.

Christopher Brauchli: The Reincarnation of Joseph McCarthy — Congressman King
America is not at war with Islam. But if Mr. King’s hearings go as planned, it is a safe bet that lots of Muslims will believe the Republican party is.

Other World News
Iraqi civilian deaths down in 2010, but in Afghanistan they’re on the rise (The Christian Science Monitor)
The Christian Science Monitor – An organization that tracks violent deaths in Iraq says that roughly 4,000 civilians were killed in war-related violence this year, the lowest total since the US invasion in 2003. The improvement came even as the US withdrew tens of thousands of troops and abandoned most of its involvement in combat operations.*

Syria welcomes appointment of US ambassador after Obama bypasses Senate’s approval
BEIRUT: Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon welcomed Thursday President Barack Obama’s decision to bypass Congress and temporarily appoint a US envoy to Syria. Obama took the rare step late Wednesday of forcing through the appointments of Ambassador Robert Ford and five other officials while the Senate – which normally needs to confirm nominations.