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Egypt FM: Gaza border to be permanently opened

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and other news from Thursday in Palestine:

Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers

Israel plans new housing units in East Jerusalem
RAMALLAH (Arab News) 28 Apr — The Israeli Housing Ministry is planning a new settlement project in East Jerusalem, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog said on Wednesday. The Palestinian leadership slammed the move. The Israeli Peace Now movement said that the Housing Minister Ariel Atias told Giv’at Ze’ev Mayor Amos Tartman that his ministry started to plan a new neighborhood consisting of 600 new housing units between Giv’at Ze’ev and Jerusalem. Atias said in his letter that the plan received his ministry’s funding. According to Peace Now, the plan requires the approval of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Peace Now said that the new settlement neighborhood will connect Giv’at Ze’ev with East Jerusalem, an area Palestinians want the capital of their future independent state.

New Israeli plan to build 386 settlement units in Sheikh Jarrah revealed
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC) 28 Apr — An Israeli municipal source revealed that the district committee for planning and building would discuss next Tuesday a plan to build 386 housing units in place of Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem. The source affirmed that the Zionist real estate agent known as Arieh King in cooperation with the association of Jewish right-wingers submitted this plan to the district committee for approval.

Silwan: The story of a house
One of the first houses Elad [El Ir-David, To City of David] )entered was Musa Abbasi’s house. The house lies next to the famous “Warren’s Shaft.” Elad’s founder, David Be’eri, impersonated a tourist guide and gained Abbasi’s trust by bringing groups of tourists to his house. Residents friends of Abbasi remember that Abbasi saw in David Be’eri, who brought tourists to purchase his lemons, a true friend. Be’eri collected information about the property in his visits and used it in a legal procedure to declare most of Abbasi’s house “Absentee Property.” This means that the legal owner lives in an enemy state and that, according to the Absentee Property Law, the state of Israel can confiscate the property without compensation. It appears a contract was signed between the state and Elad without a tender and without Abbasi’s knowledge, and so, in the dead of night in October 1991, Elad’s people entered the house and removed Musa and his family.

Plan for national park threatens to strangle East Jerusalem Issawiya neighborhood
AIC 27 Apr — Jerusalem’s District Committee for Planning and Construction recently approved a new plan to establish part of a “national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem” on lands belonging to the East Jerusalem village of Issawiya. From the residents’ perspective, this eliminates the last remaining land reserves for Issawiya’s development .. From the West it is closed off by the settlement of French Hill and from the North, by the lands located between Issawiya and the Separation Wall, where the Jerusalem Municipality plans to build a dumping ground for construction material. From the East and South the national park is being planned. Until publication of the latest plan, there remained a slope between the village homes and the campus of Hebrew University. The new plan confiscates this area from the residents. 
The use of national parks to push the Palestinian population out is not a new phenomenon. Already in 1986 residents of the South Hebron Hills village of Susiya  were expelled from the caves in which they lived. In their place the Susiya National Park was established.
However, the national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem, in the framework of which confiscation of Issawiya lands will be conducted, will impact a much larger population located throughout several East Jerusalem neighbourhoods.

12 Jerusalem families handed eviction notices
West Bank, (Pal Telegraph) 28 Apr — Israeli occupation forces handed eviction orders to 12 Palestinian families from Ka‘abna tribe in the north east of the occupied Jerusalem. Hatem Abdel Qader, the Fatah official responsible for Jerusalem affairs, said that Israeli forces imposed a military curfew handing 12 Palestinian families eviction orders to displace them from own place.

First brick laid in Vittorio School, Ras al-Awja
JVS 27 Apr — On Monday 25th the first brick was laid for a new school in the Jordan Valley. Volunteers from the Jordan Valley Solidarity worked with Ras Al Auja community members have been making mud bricks for the building during the last two weeks. On Monday morning, during the much appreciated visit of Luisa Morgantini, the Italian Parliamentarian from the CP (Communist Party), the Jericho Governor and a delegation of more than 50 Italian people, we officially inaugurated the building of the school which has been named “Vittorio Arrigoni” in memoriam of the Italian activist from ISM (International Solidarity Movement), murdered a few days ago in Gaza.

Settlers return to Nablus holy site days after shooting
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma‘an) 28 Apr — Israeli forces detained some 40 settlers from the extremist “Hilltop Youth” movement who entered the Balata refugee camp in Nablus late Wednesday, Israeli media reported. The teenagers bypassed Israeli army and police checkpoints before entering the area, which is under full Palestinian security control. The Israeli army fired stun grenades and detained several of the activists for questioning, the Israeli news site Ynet reported. The army and police are still searching for additional teens, Ynet said.

Settlers attack farmers near Salfit, several wounded
IMEMC 28 Apr — Palestinian sources in Salfit, in the central West Bank, reported Wednesday that a group of at least ten armed Israeli settlers violently attacked several farmers in Wadi Qana, near Salfit, and hurled stones at them. Eyewitnesses reported that several farmers, including an 84-year-old woman, were injured. Some of the wounded were identified as Hilwa Abdul-Halim Mansour, 84, Abdul-Karim Ahmad Mansour, 62, and Fayza Khader Mansour, 44. Wadi Qana area is a 10,000 Dunam (2,471 acre) natural reservoir, known for its fertile soil, and is under constant attacks by Israeli settlers, and by Israeli settlement construction policies, especially since Israel is trying to keep the area under its control at all times. There are seven illegal Israeli settlements in Wadi Qana. The settlements, built on occupied Palestinian lands, devastated the green area while the Israeli authorities repeatedly prevented the Palestinian farmers from entering their own lands. Settlers also repeatedly flooded the farmlands with waste-water, and even released boars into Palestinian agricultural areas.

Settlers’ stone and sports centers / Harriet Straughen
MIFTAH 27 Apr –… I took my own trip to Hebron, so that I too could see what was being talked about. As the bus entered the city, I saw the sports center and one or two of the malls … However, as I walk deeper into the old city, the crowds diminish as do the stalls and shops. Only two-three minutes’ walk from the main entrance to the old city, there are more shops closed then there are open. Above our heads a battered mesh covers the market street. On that mesh are rocks, some the size of dinner plates, interspersed with all manner of rubbish. One shopkeeper shows me the singed hole of his shop’s tarpaulin cover, the result of a burning object being thrown down through the mesh and landing in his shop. Above the market reside a number of Israeli settlers (approximately 400 in the center of Hebron), many of whom show their objection to the Palestinians below through such acts of violence and harassment. There is little wonder why so many shopkeepers have decided to leave their property below, unable to maintain a living under such circumstances.

2010 increase in Palestinian workers in settlements
AIC 28 Apr — Despite efforts of the Palestinian Authority, the percentage of Palestinian workers employed in settlements is increasing. While these workers suffer from conditions of exploitation, the high level of unemployment in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the higher salary in the settlements force numerous Palestinians to find work that contradicts the aspiration to be free of the Israeli occupation.

Army violence against children / School raids

Two children shot in the village of Bil‘in
Pop. Comm. against the Wall 28 Apr — Today around noon Jamal Atef Al Khateeb (age 15) was shot with rubber bullets in his stomach and mouth, and Nashmi Mohamad Abu Rahma (age 16) was shot with a rubber bullet in his leg. They were transferred to a Ramallah hospital for treatment. This happened as the Israeli military broke through the village while students were going home from school.

Headmaster says soldiers raided Jericho school
JERICHO (Ma‘an) — The headmaster of the Khaled Bin Al-Walid high school in north Jericho said his school was raided by Israeli forces on Tuesday afternoon, and he was questioned in his office for an hour along with a janitor at the school. Principal Yousef Zbeidat said the teenagers at the school had been terrified by the incident, and condemned what he called a lack of respect for students and a blatant harassment of school staff.

Hebron: Israeli military invades Palestinian school
Christian Peacemaker Teams 27 Apr — Around 10:50 a.m. on 21 April 2011, during the Jewish festival of Passover, CPTers received a call saying that Israeli soldiers had invaded the premises of Bin Tarek School.  Between 600-700 boys, aged fifteen through eighteen attend the school. CPTers went immediately to the building, and saw a group of six Israeli soldiers at a street corner near the school …  Teachers told the internationals that at 10:35 a.m., when the pupils were all in their classrooms, Israeli soldiers arrived unannounced and tried each of the doors/gates to get onto the school premises.  The soldiers cut through the chain holding one of the gates and got into the school playground.  They were then unable to get through any of the entrances into the school building itself.  The soldiers set off two percussion grenades in the school playground, upsetting the pupils.


Egypt FM: Gaza border to be permanently opened
Haaretz 28 Apr — Egyptian FM tells Al-Jazeera that preparations are already underway to permanently open Rafah border crossing, which would allow goods and people in and out of Gaza with no Israeli supervision.

Photos: Protesting the Israeli embassy in Egypt
28 Apr — The Israeli Embassy in Giza, a once impermissible area to hold protests during the godforsaken days of Mubarak, has recently been a hotspot of demonstrations organized by Egyptian youth. They started weeks ago with a spontaneous demo that marched from Tahrir to the embassy in response to the attacks on Gaza. They are rallying to call for an immediate stop to the the brutal attacks on the collectively punished civilians of Gaza strip, and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and severing ties with the Zionist state. Protesters held banners that read “Here is the Palestinian embassy” (below left) and waved the Palestinian flags high (below right).Yesterday saw one of these demonstrations. Students of Cairo university marched on the embassy — not so far from the university’s main campus – and settled on the bridge next to the towering building where the embassy is located. Protesters burnt the Israeli flag and chanted for the Palestinian people for at least 3 hours, showing full support.

Egyptian youth call for million-man marches to support Palestinians
MEMO 28 Apr — A call for “million-man” marches in support of the Palestinians has been made by Egypt’s Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution. The first march, to be held in Alexandria on 13 May, will also demand the opening of the Egypt-Gaza border for food, medical and humanitarian aid; marchers will head for the Israeli Consulate in the city. According to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk, the protests will put pressure on the Zionist state by demanding that the Egyptian government stops exporting natural gas to Israel, as the Israelis use it to produce military equipment used against Palestinians.

Sit-in at Rafah border demanding urgent opening
GAZA, (PIC) 28 Apr — The Palestinian trade union association has organized a sit-in Wednesday in front of the Rafah border crossing southern Gaza Strip. Protesters are demanding full opening of the crossing to allow the flow of humanitarian aid, commodities and needed medical supplies into the Gaza Strip … The Gaza Strip currently suffers a critical shortage in medicines, building materials and other necessary commodities due to the Israeli siege on the tiny enclave. Scores of doctors, pharmacists, academics, tradesman shouted demands to immediately open the Rafah crossing holding banners demanding an end to the siege.

Rafah crossing to close for 3 day holiday
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 28 Apr — The Rafah crossing will open Thursday for travelers registered for passage under the pilgrims category, and will close starting Friday until Sunday for the Labor Day holiday in Egypt, an official said.

Gaza crossing opens for limited goods
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) — A single Gaza terminal was opened for the import and export of commercial and humanitarian goods on Thursday, Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh told Ma‘an … Exports from Gaza remain negligible, with two loads of cut carnations set for export to Europe. The produce, grown under a Dutch government initiative to support Gaza farmers, has seen the only goods exported out of Gaza since 2007.

Rights group: Gaza police abuse unity revelers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) — 28 Apr — A spontaneous rally in Gaza City supporting progress towards reconciliation was violently dispersed by Gaza police on Wednesday evening, a Gaza-based rights group said Thursday. Five people were arrested at the city’s Square of the Unknown Soldier and later released, according to a report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which said rally-participants were insulted and beaten by police officers, some of who were wearing civilian clothing.

An engagement ring, a pendant, and the seeds of two dates / Dr. Robert Lambert
MEMO 28 Apr — I have been pondering the lack of Western news coverage of the tragic case of the Eqdieh family devastated by an Israeli rocket attack on their home in Gaza. Although the tragic suffering in this case is far from exceptional in Gaza, it is precisely cases of this kind that have the ability to awaken the consciences of US and European publics so they in turn might pressure their governments to seek a just settlement for the Palestinians … Not for the first time, it has been left to Al Jazeera English to plough a lone furrow, reflecting the lived experience of Gazans for a burgeoning audience in the West. Thus, Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston sits on a wall outside a home in Gaza and talks to Jihad Al Qaraa about his last meeting with his fiancée, Nidal Eqdieh. Holding an engagement ring, a pendant, and the seeds of two dates they ate together, he recalls how they sat on the same wall and made plans for their wedding on the evening before she was killed by an Israeli rocket attack on her home. See Al Jazeera VIDEO

Unity agreement

Egypt sends invitations for signing ceremony
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 28 Apr — The Egyptian government sent invitations on Thursday to Palestinian political parties for the signing of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, in a ceremony to be held next Tuesday in Cairo. The event will be used to set an implementation mechanism for the unity deal, to be approved by all political groups. Factions welcomed the invitations, and prepared to send delegations to Egypt.

Egypt sending team to Gaza to help implement Palestinian deal
Reuters 28 Apr — Egyptian security source says team will help ‘settle and organize the internal security situation there,’ after Hamas and Fatah reach historic agreement.

Abbas: Fatah will continue to handle Mideast peace talks
Haaretz 28 Apr — Speaking with reporters in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President says he will have final authority on the makeup of the future Hamas-Fatah cabinet.

Hamas-Fatah reconciliation a Palestinian form of Arab spring / Ian Black
Guardian 27 Apr — Agreement between the two rival groups will strengthen the Palestinians who can now pose a challenge to Israel, US and EU

UN Mideast peace envoy ‘strongly supports’ unity deal
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Apr — Unity is the best progress toward reunification of Gaza and the West Bank, UN Mideast peace envoy Robert Serry said in a statement Thursday, noting the process was “essential for achieving a two-state solution that should be reached through negotiations.”

EU says needs to study details of proposed Fatah-Hamas unity deal
dpa 28 Apr — Spokesman for foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says Europe had consistently called for reconciliation under the authority of President Abbas; Russia lauds expected pact.

Israel FM says Palestinian deal ‘crosses red line’
JERUSALEM (AFP) 28 Apr — The Palestinian unity deal agreed to in Cairo crossed “a red line,” Israel’s settler Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday, warning that an array of measures could be taken against the Palestinian Authority … “We have at our disposal a vast arsenal of measures including the lifting of VIP status for Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad, which will not allow them to move freely,” he said referring to President Mahmoud Abbas and his caretaker prime minister. We could also freeze the transfer of taxes collected by Israel for the Palestinian Authority,” added Lieberman

Israel wary of change in security arrangements with PA
Ynet 28 Apr — The Palestinian factions’ reconciliations has Israel concerned for many reasons, but one of the major ones is the now-questionable continuation of the collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.,7340,L-4061591,00.html

Peres: Palestinian unity deal could be barrier to statehood
Haaretz 28 Apr — President calls burgeoning Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement a ‘fatal mistake,’ saying he expected a future Palestinian vote to result in Hamas’ rule of the West Bank.

Bipartisanship at last: US politicians line up to castigate Palestinian unity deal / Alex Kane
28 Apr — In stark contrast to partisan wrangling over the budget and women’s rights, Democrats and Republicans are lining up to demand the cut-off of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority as a response to the reported unity deal between Hamas and Fatah. Expect the Obama administration to take heed and agree with Congress — especially with the 2012 elections approaching. The rhetoric from both sides of the aisle is uniform.  It’s the Israel lobby’s line.

Abu Rudeineh: Agreement is an internal Palestinian affair
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 27 Apr — Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Wednesday that the agreement between Fatah and Hamas declared in Cairo “is an internal affair and Israel had nothing to do with it, nor is it a party to it.”  He said “the agreement strengthens Palestinian unity and its just struggle to establish its independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”  Abu Rudeineh responded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threats to the Palestinian Authority to choose between peace with Israel and Hamas saying that “the Palestine Liberation Organization, as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, is committed to the peace process and its terms of reference.”

VIDEO: Divide and conquer no longer possible / Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi
28 Apr — Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi speaks about yesterday’s reunification of Palestine’s Hamas and Fateh governments and condemns Israel’s anti-democratic reaction.

Political/Diplomatic/International news

Police brace for declaration of state
Ynet 28 Apr — Police Chief Dudi Cohen says major disruptions of order are expected once Palestinians declare statehood in September. “We are preparing for worst-case scenario,” he says …  Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned recently of what might happen once the PA makes the unilateral move. “We are facing a political tsunami of which most of the public is unaware,” he said. “There is an international movement to recognize a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. It would be a mistake not to take notice of this.” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki said that 150 nations are expected recognize a Palestinian state by September. He claimed that 10 Caribbean countries are to declare recognition of the state over the coming month.,7340,L-4061929,00.html

Egypt says not obliged to repay Israel for cut to gas supply
dpa 28 Apr — Egypt’s Petroleum Minister Abdullah Ghorab said the country was not obliged to compensate Israel and Jordan for the non-delivery of gas after attacks on the pipeline to the two countries, in an interview published Thursday. Ghorab was quoted by Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper as saying that Egypt was not bound to pay compensation because the explosions took place during a “state of emergency.” Officials in Israel and Jordan have not approached to him to inquire about the situation, he said.


The Middle Eastern mixed marriage mystery / Ami Kaufman
*972mag 27 Apr — Since I last published my post about a sign in Bat Yam that directed to a marriage between an Arab woman and a Jewish man – Basma and Yossi – the story has taken an interesting turn …  My colleague, Dimi Reider, shared the link to the post on his Facebook page. And that’s where things took a turn (for the worse?). One of the people who commented on his link posted this picture: As you can see, it’s the exact same font, exact same arrow. This time, the wedding is for Yaeli (Jewish name) and Muhammad (Arab name). This photo was taken near Rothchild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. To complicate things further, another one of Dimi’s friends said he saw a similar sign, for Ahmed and Shira’s wedding, posted outside a cafe in central Tel Aviv. My heart sank. I was fooled. It’s some sort of campaign. But actually, what’s interesting about this campaign is which way you can take it. One has to ask: Who is smiling now because of these signs, and who is afraid of them?

Lands conference awards Safed rabbi who said Jews shouldn’t rent to non-Jews
Haaretz 28 Apr — Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu slams the media for calling him a racist for signing the ‘rabbis’ letter’ that said Jews should not rent their homes to gentiles; rabbi says “thank God in Safed, land isn’t sold to foreigners.” … The rabbi slammed those who have accused him of being a racist, saying that a survey showed that 74-percent of the public supports the letter. He added that he believed the letter had backing from God.

Other news

Arab education officials: Israel must lift ban on teaching about Nakba
The decision taken by the Education Ministry earlier this month to introduce a mandatory question about the Holocaust into the matriculation exams of Arab students is drawing sharp criticism from Arab education professionals. It is not that they oppose teaching Holocaust studies in Arab schools, these professionals say, but they believe the ministry should lift its ban on teaching Arab students their own historic narrative. “Every student, Arab and Jewish, must be familiar with his own and the other’s history,” says Hala Espanioly, head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Commitee’s subcommittee on education.

PCBS: Unemployment high in 2010
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 28 Apr — Marking the occasion of Labor Day, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said that unemployment rate in the Palestinian Territory reached 24% (23% for males and 27% for females) during 2010.  Unemployment rate in the West Bank was 17% (17% for males and 20% for females) compared with 38% in Gaza Strip (36% for males and 48% for females).

Palestinians continue to press for improvement in social services
DS 28 Apr — BEIRUT: Around 100 Palestinian refugees held a sit-in in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Bir Hassan Wednesday, demanding for the fourth time this month an improvement in health and social services in the refugee camps across the country.  On the same day, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) issued a press release announcing the launch of a program aiming at “improving the accessibility of patients to the care needed and reducing the financial burden on Palestinian patients.”

In the alleys of a refugee camp, a commitment to fitness
Jordan 28 Apr — David Fox is wearing shorts as he confidently strides through the alleys of the Gaza Camp, one of 10 refugee camps set up in Jordan to house Palestinians displaced between 1948 and 1968. He greets store owners and children at play. “I’ll get some flak for the shorts,” he says. For Mr. Fox, however, the exposed legs — a taboo for men and women above a certain age — are part of his nightly uniform. For more than a year, the former-marine-turned-community-worker has trained young men in his self-financed, United Nations-sponsored fitness center.

Analysis / Opinion

Analysis: Palestinian accord a signal of Egypt policy shift / Marwa Awad
CAIRO, April 28 (Reuters) – The Palestinian reconciliation accord brokered by Egypt means as much to Cairo as the rival factions it united, because it signals a clear shift in Middle East policy from the era of deposed President Hosni Mubarak. By pushing Fatah and its Islamist rival Hamas to end their feud, the generals who now rule Egypt are seeking to gain leverage over Israel, cozy up to regional rival Iran and gain credibility among a largely pro-Palestinian population.

Honest people can’t be indifferent to Israeli fascism / Khalid Amayreh
MEMO 28 Apr — I read with utter contempt the [Telegraph] article by Israeli apologist Michael Weiss in which he asked, “Why is Amnesty hosting a Hamas-friendly publisher of racists?” … The truth of the matter, which is being discovered by millions around the world, mainly thanks to the new social media and the internet, is simple: far from being the innocent victim of a hostile Arab world, Israel is a state whose very existence is based, and depends, on ethnic cleansing, land theft and lies.

Arab world is deposing rulers, Israel is blowing leaves / Gideon Levy
28 Apr — The Arab world is deposing rulers and we are deposing the leaf blower. Now they will inundate the streets with thousands of African sanitation workers, who will sweep our streets in a hush and clean up after us ever so quietly with their wretched brooms of twigs, these sub-contracted workers, who earn the very minimum of the minimum wage and do not receive any social benefits or health insurance. But what’s important is that our rest is not disturbed and our tranquility is preserved, no matter the cost.


Tuesday: 5 Iraqis killed, 68 wounded
At least five Iraqis were killed and 68 were wounded in new attacks and protest violence. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused fellow politicians of ordering a few recent assassinations. Also, the push to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond their year-end withdrawal date may have found some support.

Wednesday: 8 Iraqis killed, 14 wounded
Light violence left eight dead and 14 wounded across the country. Meanwhile, the two main political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan are seeking resumed peace talks with opposition parties. The talks broke off when security forces entered Suleimaniya last week to put an end to demonstrations. Two more people died in or from yesterday’s blasts in Kirkuk. A body was found northeast of the city. Six bombs were defused today, and a weapons cache was found.


American; political science major, M.A.; former ISM volunteer in the West Bank

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