Wednesday, April 28, 2010


UN chief discusses Mideast with Israel's Barak
Wed Apr 28, 3:34 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak here Wednesday and voiced hope indirect Palestinian-Israeli talks would start soon.A UN statement said the UN secretary general expressed his hope that proximity talks between the parties would begin shortly.Ban and Barak, a former Israeli premier, reviewed matters of mutual interest regarding the stability of the region, including Lebanon and exchanged views on the Iranian nuclear issue, it added.The UN boss called for further progress by Israel in allowing access for reconstruction materials into the Gaza Strip.Israel on April 4 allowed the first commercial shipment of clothes and shoes into Gaza since 2008 but said its border closure policy towards the territory's Hamas rulers had not changed.Israel has said the blockade, which keep out all but vital aid, are necessary to prevent Hamas from rebuilding its military infrastructure in Gaza and to pressure it to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured in 2006.

Tuesday, Barak was in Washington where he held talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US envoy George Mitchell and Clinton's top Middle East diplomat Jeffrey Feltman.Mitchell has just returned from the region in a new bid to revive the indirect proximity talks that were aborted as soon as they started in March when Israel announced it would build new homes in east Jerusalem.

Palestinian forces ready to secure West Bank
Wed Apr 28, 11:37 am ET

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) – Palestinian security forces are ready to secure the entire West Bank as part of a negotiated agreement with Israel, the West Bank security chief told reporters on Wednesday.Major General Diab al-Ali spoke a day after some 2,000 Palestinian security forces held a major live-fire drill in a suburb of Ramallah, the political capital of the occupied West Bank.We are ready to put a Palestinian soldier on every inch of Palestinian land, Ali said.He insisted that his forces would not allow a repeat of what happened in Gaza in June 2007, when the Islamist Hamas movement swept forces loyal to president Mahmud Abbas out in a week of bloody street battles.The security forces have learned from what happened in Gaza, he said.He admitted that there had been problems with overlapping powers among the different Palestinian security services but said they now work as a cohesive force.This drill was to confirm our readiness for all the security services to work together, and it was not easy, he said.But today there is no conflict of powers whatsoever.In the past two years, Palestinian security forces have imposed law and order in several West Bank towns that had been major militant bastions at the height of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, or uprising.But while Israel has lauded their efforts and removed some of the hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks it maintains in the territory, it insists its own forces are responsible for the dramatic decline in violence.

Hamas warned: fear may give way to revolt in Gaza By Nidal al-Mughrabi – Wed Apr 28, 7:00 am ET

GAZA (Reuters) – Security forces of the Islamist group Hamas detained Palestinian political activists overnight for distributing leaflets urging them to ease up on the people of Gaza or face a possibly explosive revolt.An official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) told Reuters several members were arrested late on Tuesday and set free on Wednesday.The PFLP leaflets were the strongest public criticism yet of Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and has been clamping down on any behavior it sees as un-Islamic, while recently levying new taxes on the 1.5 million inhabitants.People are under huge pressure but they are also afraid to express themselves and we took the responsibility to voice their concerns, PFLP official Jamil Mezher told Reuters.

The leaflet warned Hamas to beware increasing pressure on the people in a way that could push the community to rebel against these practices and even to explode in the faces of those responsible.It urged the territory's Islamist rulers to stop violating freedoms, oppressing political opponents and imposing taxes on small businesses in the enclave, whose borders with Israel and Egypt are tightly controlled.The price of a pack of cigarettes, most of which are smuggled in via tunnels from Egypt, has been raised to cover a 3 shekel (80 cent) tax which goes to Hamas.Another group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), urged peaceful protests against Hamas taxes.The DFLP condemns the increase of taxes and fees ... which have led to an unprecedented rise in prices amid deteriorating economic and social conditions, it said.We call for popular action and peace protests to stop these measures.


Israel invaded Gaza in a three-week offensive 16 months ago to force an end to rocket fire by Hamas and other groups aimed at towns in southern Israel. But the border remains tense and violent incidents involving troops and militants are frequent.Local traders say the group is trying to patch up its depleted finances and calculate this tax will yield it about $6 million per month.The PFLP also noted a new Hamas move to take over uninhabited housing and offer it to their members.

Economists say half the people are jobless in Gaza, which subsists on United Nations aid. They cannot leave the enclave.PFLP leaders said they had urged Hamas in a face-to-face meeting recently to ease up.The Hamas administration denied it had imposed any new tax and said it had only activated a tiny section of the taxation system.
Mezher said the PFLP had plenty of testimony to the contrary from ordinary people. Many government employees said they had not yet been paid for the month of March.Hamas Islamists are allied with Iran and refuse to recognize the Jewish state, unlike their arch rivals in the Fatah movement Fatah, which is dominant in the West Bank and open to a peace treaty that would create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Prospects of the two groups reconciling to heal the split in Palestinian ranks are seen as remote. (Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Charles Dick)

Mayor pledges more Jewish homes in east Jerusalem
Wed Apr 28, 1:27 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat pledged that more Jewish homes will be built in east Jerusalem, despite US calls for a freeze there in a bid to boost prospects for Middle East peace.Barkat showed no sign of constraints on construction in Jerusalem despite a Haaretz newspaper report saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to refrain from significant actions in the disputed holy city.The answer is no, a clear no, he told reporters Tuesday when asked if Israel would heed calls by President Barak Obama's administration to stop building in east Jerusalem until at least Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are launched.The mayor said there had only been a temporary halt to construction as Israel reeled from the shock of having its US ally publicly reprimand it for announcing last month 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem.When you get two slaps in your face, first of all, you stop and you think: Did you do anything wrong? he said.It takes some time to recover from such an attack by such a friend like the US administration. Now I think we're past that phase right now, Barkat told reporters over dinner.There is no freeze, he confirmed, adding there will be more announcements of further construction.There will be buildings going on. You cannot stop a vibrant living city, especially not Jerusalem. And by the way, if you stop it, Jews will leave and Arabs will build illegally,he added.You must build for both Jews and Arabs, he said.Giving Palestinians any grip of east Jerusalem is putting a Trojan horse for Jews in Jerusalem,the mayor said.

Saying he was simply following a masterplan for Jerusalem, Barkat said he aimed to keep the holy city's Jewish population at 65 percent and the Palestinian population at 35 percent.Barkat said he showed the masterplan -- which also calls for designs that help increase tourists from two million a year to 10 million a year in a decade -- to US lawmakers and government officials during his visit to Washington.He said he planned to meet with State Department officials on Wednesday.His visit coincides with that of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but is independent of it.

The United States has been pressing the two sides to return to negotiations for months, but the Palestinians have refused to do so without a complete freeze on Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

U.S., Israel say Syria arming Hezbollah with missiles
Tue Apr 27, 4:59 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. and Israeli defense ministers accused Syria on Tuesday of arming Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas with increasingly powerful missiles, but Israel said it did not intend to provoke a conflict over the buildup.The comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Israel's Ehud Barak stopped short of identifying what type of missiles were being supplied to Hezbollah, after reports that the group had obtained long-range Scud missiles capable of hitting targets across the Jewish state.U.S. intelligence and defense officials have cast doubt on Israeli allegations that Scuds have reached Lebanon.Gates, who spoke alongside Barak after a meeting at the Pentagon, said Syria as well as Iran were providing Hezbollah with weapons of ever increasing capability.We are at a point now where Hezbollah has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world, Gates said, noting that Washington was following the matter closely.Barak said the missiles could disrupt the very delicate balance in Lebanon.But he played down the chances of a conflict over the transfers, which have grabbed headlines since the Scud allegations surfaced in a Kuwaiti media report on April 10 and were endorsed by Israel's head of state, Shimon Peres.

We do not intend to provoke any kind of major collision in Lebanon, or vis-a-vis Syria ... but we are watching closely these developments and think that they do not contribute to stability in the region, Barak said.Hezbollah fired thousands of the mostly short-range Katyusha rockets into Israel in 2006 and the Jewish state is worried the guerrillas have replenished their arsenal to strike on Iran's behalf if its nuclear sites come under attack.A Pentagon report on Iran released last week said that Hezbollah had rearmed itself to beyond the levels seen before the 2006 war, despite U.N.-backed efforts to curb weapon shipments to the group.In addition to arms, Iran provides about $100 million to $200 million per year to support Hezbollah, it said.The missile allegations involving Syria have complicated President Barack Obama's efforts to forge a rapprochement with Damascus, which his administration sees as crucial to Middle East peace efforts and to stabilize the nascent democracy in neighboring Iraq.Obama aims to return an ambassador to Damascus after a five-year absence. But the designated envoy, Robert Ford, is still awaiting confirmation by the full Senate.(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Adam Entous and Deborah Charles, editing by Chris Wilson)

Israel warns against giving Iran too much time By ANNE GEARAN, AP National Security Writer – Tue Apr 27, 5:42 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The United States is doing the right thing by pursuing a diplomatic solution to the threat that Iran may soon gain a nuclear weapon, but the world cannot afford to wait too long, Israel's defense minister said Tuesday.Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he supports the U.S. focus on tougher economic sanctions against Tehran and that the United States is the only world power that can muster a coordinated global effort to deter Iran through economic pressure.Only time will tell to what extent they are really effective, Barak said following meetings at the Pentagon with the top U.S. civilian and uniformed officials. He warned that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that would change the landscape of the entire world, not just of the Middle East.U.S. defense officials walk a fine line when discussing Iran and Israel, quick to say that a nuclear Iran is intolerable and a direct threat to Israel, but also firm that a pre-emptive U.S. or Israeli military strike would be counterproductive now.Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned in a secret memo in January that the United States needed more forethought and more options as Iran edges closer to the time when it could build a weapon. He declined to go further Tuesday.I'm very satisfied with the planning process at the Pentagon and elsewhere within the Obama administration, Gates said during a news conference with Barak. We spend a lot of time on Iran, and we'll continue to do so.

Iran and the rearming of the Hezbollah militia were major topics of Barak's session at the Pentagon. He met earlier Tuesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.Barak's three-day visit to Washington is partly intended to project a better image of U.S.-Israeli relations than what emerged from the tense visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.The traditionally close alliance between United States and Israel has been strained by the Netanyahu government's move to expand Jewish housing on land claimed by Palestinians for their future capital. The United States sees the move as a direct affront to peacemaking. Peace talks remain stalled.

Fatah eyes bigger slice of Fayyad's Palestinian government By Mohammed Assadi – Tue Apr 27, 11:53 am ET

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Leading members of the dominant Palestinian movement Fatah are demanding more power in the Palestinian Authority cabinet of U.S.-backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Fatah officials said on Tuesday.We are calling for a reshuffle of the key ministries, said Amin Maqboul, secretary general of Fatah's Revolutionary Council. He was speaking to Reuters after four days of closed-door meetings in the West Bank city of Ramallah.The Council wants to turn the interior affairs, finance and foreign affairs portfolios currently held by Fayyad loyalists over to Fatah members, officials said.Fatah has 11 seats in the 21-member caretaker cabinet led by Fayyad, a technocratic independent who has incurred the envy of many Fatah activists.Fayyad was appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas at a time when the West was pressing for reform in what was widely seen as a corruption-riddled administration. He promoted a policy of transparency welcomed by Western aid donors.

Senior Fatah official Mahmoud al-Aloul said Abbas, who leads Fatah also wants a reshuffle and he has no objection to the Council's demands. But there was no immediate confirmation from the presidency.


Minister of Labour Ahmad Majdalani said Fayyad had already asked Abbas for cabinet changes to replace non-performing ministers. He is pressing ahead with an ambitious program to build the institutions of the Palestinian state which he expects to complete in 2011.There is a previous agreement between the president and the prime minister on the reshuffle, Majdalani told Reuters. He cannot continue with his work with the current staff.A close confidant of Fayyad said the premier would not mind Fatah taking any post except finance, which he holds and which is off-limits.They know that they cannot get the ministry of finance and Fayyad may quit if they insist on taking it. I don't think things will go that far, this source said.Fayyad, a former World Bank economist, has a very small political power base. He has gained prominence for a pragmatic policies to improve the economy and the infrastructure of the occupied West Bank, and popularity for his grassroots approach.Fatah argues that a reshuffle would improve the performance of the government, Aloul told Reuters.

Fatah dominated Palestinian politics for decades until the Islamist Hamas scored a surprise win in the 2006 parliamentary election and one year later kicked Fatah out of the Gaza Strip, which Hamas has controlled ever since.Abbas appointed Fayyad after the seizure of Gaza. But many in Fatah have been irked by Abbas's reliance on him.Pressure for greater say in the caretaker government increased last August, after Fatah held its first congress in 20 years, bringing new members into the Revolutionary Council and Central Committee.(Editing by Douglas Hamilton in Jerusalem)

Another aide to former Israel PM arrested by fraud squad
Mon Apr 26, 6:00 pm ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli police on Monday arrested former prime minister Ehud Olmert's one-time office manager, the latest Olmert aide to be questioned over multiple fraud and bribery cases in which the ex-premier is a suspect.TV newscasts showed detectives at Israel's Ben Gurion airport meeting Shula Zaken as she returned from a visit to the United States, and driving her away in an unmarked car.Local media said she was being taken for questioning at the headquarters of the police national fraud squad, near Tel Aviv. The police spokesman did not respond to AFP's request for comment.Olmert's former lawyer and business associate, Uri Messer, was arrested three weeks ago on suspicion of using bribes to secure approval for a massive property development in Jerusalem named the Holyland Project.Media reports had said Olmert, who is also a former mayor of Jerusalem, was suspected of having taken a bribe of 3.5 million shekels (almost one million dollars at the current exchange rate).On April 15 Olmert went on television and denied taking any bribe.

His successor as mayor, Uri Lupolianski, is also under arrest for his alleged involvement in the Holyland scandal.Police have a state's witness to testify against Olmert, according to media reports.In December, Olmert pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption linked to three other cases. He resigned under pressure in September 2008 after police recommended that he be indicted.Messer is himself a witness in the trial currently under way against Olmert, and Zaken is a co-defendant.Olmert is accused of unlawfully accepting gifts of cash-stuffed envelopes from Jewish-American businessman Morris Talanski and of multiple-billing for foreign trips.He has also been charged with cronyism in relation to an investment centre which he oversaw when he was trade and industry minister between 2003 and 2006.The case is expected to drag on for months, if not years. If found guilty, Olmert could face a prison term, although it is unclear for how long.All the charges relate to a period before Olmert became premier, to his terms as mayor of Jerusalem and later as trade and industry minister.


EZEKIEL 38:1-12
1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, set thy face against Gog,(RULER) the land of Magog,(RUSSIA) the chief prince of Meshech(MOSCOW)and Tubal,(TOBOLSK) and prophesy against him,
3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech(MOSCOW) and Tubal:
4 And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws,(GOD FORCES THE RUSSIA-MUSLIMS TO MARCH) and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:
5 Persia,(IRAN,IRAQ) Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:
6 Gomer,(GERMANY) and all his bands; the house of Togarmah (TURKEY)of the north quarters, and all his bands:(SUDAN,AFRICA) and many people with thee.
7 Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.
8 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.
9 Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.(RUSSIA-EGYPT AND MUSLIMS)
10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:
11 And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,
12 To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.

1 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.

PSALMS 83:3-7
3 They (ARABS,MUSLIMS) have taken crafty counsel against thy people,(ISRAEL) and consulted against thy hidden ones.
4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
5 For they (MUSLIMS) have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:(TREATIES)
6 The tabernacles of Edom,(JORDAN) and the Ishmaelites;(ARABS) of Moab, PALESTINIANS,JORDAN) and the Hagarenes;(EGYPT)
7 Gebal,(HEZZBALLOH,LEBANON) and Ammon,(JORDAN) and Amalek;(SYRIA,ARABS,SINAI) the Philistines (PALESTINIANS) with the inhabitants of Tyre;(LEBANON)

DANIEL 11:40-43
40 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south( EGYPT) push at him:(EU DICTATOR IN ISRAEL) and the king of the north (RUSSIA AND MUSLIM HORDES OF EZEK 38+39) shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
41 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.(JORDAN)
42 He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
43 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.

EZEKIEL 39:1-8
1 Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog,(LEADER OF RUSSIA) and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech (MOSCOW) and Tubal: (TUBOLSK)
2 And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts,(RUSSIA) and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel:
3 And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand.
4 Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands,( ARABS) and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.
5 Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
6 And I will send a fire on Magog,(NUCLEAR BOMB) and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
7 So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.
8 Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord GOD; this is the day whereof I have spoken.

JOEL 2:3,20,30-31
3 A fire(NUCLEAR BOMB) devoureth before them;(RUSSIA-ARABS) and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
20 But I will remove far off from you the northern army,(RUSSIA,MUSLIMS) and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.(SIBERIAN DESERT)
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.(NUCLEAR BOMB)
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.

Hamas releases cartoon about captured Israeli By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Writer – Sun Apr 25, 3:40 pm ET

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Hamas released an animated film Sunday bearing a grisly message for Israel: If it doesn't meet the Islamic militant group's demands, an Israeli soldier it has held for nearly four years could return home in a coffin.The short but sophisticated cartoon — which depicts Sgt. Gilad Schalit's aging father wandering empty streets with a picture of his son and ends with the words There is still hope — is the latest product of Hamas' growing media machine.TV and radio stations controlled by the group continuously broadcast Hamas-produced songs and music videos threatening the Jewish state and rallying the group's militant Islamic base.But the latest cartoon — which was widely broadcast on Israeli TV — was remarkable for the personal and callous nature of the appeal on an issue that has profound emotional resonance for many Israelis: The fate of Schalit, who was captured by Gaza militants in June 2006.The website of Hamas' armed wing, which posted the video, said it was intended to pressure Israelis to accept demands for a prisoner swap and warns the Israeli government it could regret not making a deal quickly.

Schalit's father, who has become a recognizable face in Israel, is the main character of the three-minute, 20-second short, in Hebrew with English and Arabic subtitles. Noam Schalit is normally clean-shaven, but he appears in the film's later scenes with a cane and scraggly gray beard, suggesting he has grown old while awaiting his son's release.The elder Schalit passes billboards on which Israeli leaders vow to free his son or get information on his fate. He reads a newspaper ad offering $50 million for information on his son's whereabouts, then tosses it in the trash.The soundtrack includes clips of his son's voice taken from a Hamas video released last October to prove the soldier was still alive. That video came amid talks aimed at trading Schalit for about 1,000 Palestinians prisoners. Negotiations have since stalled.Toward the end of the film, screen text in Hebrew and Arabic informs viewers that the Israeli government's efforts to clinch a prisoner swap deal succeeded. Noam Schalit sits near Israel's Erez border crossing with Gaza, where a black van unloads a coffin draped in an Israeli flag.The father screams, then wakes up, finding himself sitting at a bus stop. A screen text reads:There is still hope.

Noam Schalit called the film psychological warfare and urged Hamas to reach a deal with Israel in order to ease an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has made life hard for the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.Hamas leaders would do better if instead of producing films and performances, they would worry about the real interests of the Palestinian prisoners and the ordinary citizens of Gaza who have been held hostage by their leaders for a long time,he said in a statement.Hamas has placed considerable emphasis on expanding its media machine since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, ousting forces loyal to its Western-backed rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Last year, the group released its first feature film, an action-packed homage to a top militant.Hamas also has produced cartoons before, including a jihad-loving mouse for a children's show. Last year, a short cartoon showed Schalit strapped to a chair, pleading with a Palestinian boy to set him free. The boy refused, saying he had relatives in Israeli prisons.Nashat al-Aqtash, media professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank, said Hamas has invested in media production as an easy way to spread its ideology — a tactic also used by other militant groups.Cheaper technology has made it easier to produce animated films, which can be widely distributed on the Internet while keeping their creators' identities secret, al-Aqtash said.

Hamas declined to say who made Sunday's film.

Israelis criticized the film for exploiting the Schalit family's pain. The family's plight has struck a chord with Jewish Israelis, most of whom perform mandatory military service and feel the same could have happened to anyone's son. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the film demonstrated Hamas' terrorist and cruel character.Others noted that the video was released just two days after Israel permitted the daughter of Hamas' top security official in Gaza to pass though Israel on her way to seek urgent medical treatment in Jordan. The daughter of Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad left Gaza on Friday for an Israeli hospital, where she was airlifted to Jordan, Israeli and Jordanian officials said Sunday. Jordanian officials declined to discuss Elham Fathi Hamad's treatment but said Jordan's King Abdullah II personally appealed to Israel so the woman, who is in her 20s, could make the rare medical trip through Israel. Hamad once headed the armed wing of Hamas that released the Schalit video. He now oversees all of Hamas' security forces. Nir Hefez, media adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the video's timing attests, more than anything, to the character of this terrorist organization.
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Divers find rocket debris off Israeli resort
Sat Apr 24, 2:41 pm ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Sappers on Saturday recovered debris from a rocket that hit the water off Israel's Red Sea resort of Eilat two days earlier, after being alerted by civilian divers, the military said.After verification, the device found by the two civilian divers turned out to be a 122 mm rocket, a military spokesman said.The civilians reported finding the rocket after two projectiles hit in and near the adjacent Jordanian port of Aqaba on Thursday.Two divers told the army they had seen what appeared to be a rocket on the seabed, an Israeli spokesman said earlier. The army sealed off a nearby beach and sent sappers to the scene.Two military-grade rockets struck Jordan early on Thursday, one slamming into an empty warehouse in Aqaba and the other splashing into the sea near the Israeli border, a Jordanian security official said.The preliminary investigation determined that the explosion in the port of Aqaba on Thursday morning was due to a Katyusha rocket, the security official said, citing sources close to investigators.A second Katyusha rocket was found in Jordanian territorial waters,he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai later said the authorities were 100 percent sure the rocket that hit the warehouse was a Grad-type projectile, rather than a Katyusha.Jordanian authorities said they were investigating whether the target of the rocket attack was Aqaba or Eilat, less than 10 kilometres (six miles) along the coast.In August 2005, three Katyusha rockets were fired in Aqaba, missing two US warships docked in the port. One hit a warehouse, killing a Jordanian soldier, while another struck across the border in Israel.That attack was claimed by a group linked to Al-Qaeda.

Abbas wants Palestinian, Israeli political dialogue
Sat Apr 24, 8:34 am ET

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called on Saturday for an open political dialogue between Palestinian groups and both Israeli and Jewish organisations around the world.I call for an open political dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli forces, and we are ready to undertake them without exception,Abbas told a meeting of the Revolutionary Council of his Fatah party.Such talks would be based on the acceptance by both sides of a proposed Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, he said.We are ready to engage in a responsible dialogue, because we know that 84 percent of Israelis want peace ... and that the large majority of Palestinians and Israelis want true peace,he said..Abbas's made his call while the Palestinian Authority is refusing to resume peace talks with the Israeli government itself until such time as the Jewish state freezes all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

Israel's Barak sees green light for talks soon by Steve Weizman – Fri Apr 23, 4:50 pm ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday that he saw the current diplomacy by the US Middle East envoy leading to agreement within weeks on renewed peace talks with the Palestinians.I get the impression there is a very intensive effort to start them, Barak told Israel's Channel One television as US President Barack Obama's envoy George Mitchell met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank.I imagine and I very much hope that maybe within the next two weeks we shall achieve indirect talks, he said.Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said after the Ramallah meeting that an Arab League committee to monitor peace efforts would meet in Cairo on May 1 to discuss Mitchell's ideas.He did not elaborate, but earlier Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said any firm proposal to restart talks would have to be endorsed by Arab leaders.Direct peace negotiations between the sides collapsed in 2008, and Mitchell was on Friday trying to broker US-mediated indirect talks as a prelude to face-to-face negotiations.There was a generally upbeat tone to his meetings with other Israeli leaders.Despite a recent chill in relations with Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he looked forward to working with Obama to advance peace.We're serious about it. We know you're serious about it. We hope the Palestinians respond,he told Mitchell.We have to move this process forward.

Netanyahu's office said the two had a good meeting that dealt with kickstarting the peace process and would meet again on Sunday.Israeli President Shimon Peres was also positive on the prospect of reviving the talks that stalled in 2008.Your arrival this time is a green light to continue, he told Mitchell.The envoy later travelled to Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to see Abbas, and told reporters that Washington's goal was to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace soon, not in some vague and distant future.Erekat called the meeting positive, and said Mitchell would return to Ramallah for more talks before leaving the region.US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Obama's envoy was seeking to clear a path to talks on core issues, such as the borders of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel, but was not trying to impose a solution.Our goal in these conversations is to advance negotiations over final status issues -- borders obviously being one of them, she told reporters at a meeting of NATO ministers in Estonia.There's a lot of ideas that have been floated around, but at the end of the day it's only the Israelis and Palestinians that can make these decisions for themselves.Mitchell last month convinced the Palestinians to hold indirect talks, only to see the agreement collapse when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new settler homes in east Jerusalem.

The plan, announced as US Vice President Joe Biden was in Jerusalem promoting the peace talks, sparked a bitter row with Washington. And publicly at least, Netanyahu is not budging. There will be no freeze on construction in Jerusalem, he reiterated on Thursday.Everyone knows it,he told Israel's Channel Two television. Israel captured the Arab part of the city in the 1967 Middle East War and then annexed it, claiming the whole of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state. Settlements and the status of Jerusalem are among the thorniest issues in efforts to achieve a resolution of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The international community considers all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, to be illegal. Peace talks, revived in late 2007 after a seven-year hiatus, collapsed again after Israel launched a devastating offensive on the Gaza Strip in December 2008. The Palestinians have insisted they will not return to the negotiating table unless there is a total freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.In November, Netanyahu's government announced a partial 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank, but excluding east Jerusalem.


3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.

18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
20 And the winepress was trodden without the city,(JERUSALEM) and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.(200 MILES) (THE SIZE OF ISRAEL)

ISAIAH 66:15-18
15 For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.
17 They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.
18 For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.

ISAIAH 26:21
21 For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.(WW3,1/2 earths population die).

ISAIAH 13:6-13 KJV
6 Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
7 Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt:(FROM FRIGHT)
8 And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.
9 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
11 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.

ISAIAH 24:17-23 KJV
17 Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.
18 And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.
19 The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
20 The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.
21 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
22 And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.
23 Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous (DANGEROUS) times shall come.

JOEL 2:3,30
3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.

ZECHARIAH 14:12-13
12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.
13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.

47 And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.

18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.


LUKE 17:34-37
34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.(Christians have new bodies,this is the people against Jerusalem during the 7 yr treaty)(Christians bodies are not being eaten by the birds).

MATTHEW 24:37-51
37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.(THIS IS 1,000 YEARS AFTER THE END OF 7 YR PEACE TREATY)(WHEN JESUS HAS BEEN REIGNING FROM JERUSALEM-THE WORLD CAPITAL NOW 1,000 YEARS).THEN AT THE END OF THE 1,000 YEAR REIGN THESE NEXT VERSES HAPPEN.LAKE OF ETERNAL FIRE JUDGEMENT FOR THE SINNERS AND HATERS OF ISRAEL AND GOD(KNG JESUS).
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Friday, April 23, 2010


US envoy in Mideast in latest bid to relaunch peace talks
by Patrick Moser APR 23,10 9:30 AM

JERUSALEM (AFP) – US envoy GeorgeMitchell met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday on his latest trip to the region aimed at convincing Middle East leaders to restart peace negotiations.Despite a recent cooling of relations with Washington, Netanyahu said he looked forward to working with US President Barack Obama and his envoy to advance peace.We're serious about it. We know you're serious about it. We hope the Palestinians respond,Netanyahu told Mitchell at the start of the meeting in Jerusalem.We have to move this process forward.In a brief statement after the talks, Netanyahu's office said the two had a good meeting that dealt with kickstarting the peace process -- which was broken off in late 2008 -- and that they will meet again on Sunday.

Mitchell also held talks with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

Later in the day, he planned to head to Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and other officials.Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina stressed that any concrete proposal for a restart of talks with Israel would have to be discussed with Arab leaders.Any decision to participate in any negotiations will be taken in consultation with the Arabs, he said.Abu Rudeina also strongly criticised Israel's rejection of international demands for a halt to settlement construction in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.The statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Israel?s intention to continue settlement activities in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories show that his government is placing hurdles in the way of negotiations, whether direct or indirect, he said.A frequent visitor to the region, Mitchell had managed last month to convince the Palestinians to hold indirect talks, only to see the agreement collapse when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new settler homes in east Jerusalem.The plan, announced just as US Vice President Joe Biden was in Jerusalem to promote the peace talks, infuriated Washington and sparked a bitter row between the two allies.But Netanyahu has repeatedly insisted he has no intention of caving in to Western pressure to halt settlement activity in east Jerusalem.There will be no freeze on construction in Jerusalem, Netanyahu reiterated on Thursday.Everyone knows it,he told Channel Two television.There is perfect agreement on the fact that there cannot be preconditions to negotiations, he added, in an apparent reference to Palestinian demands that settlement construction be halted before direct talks can resume.Israel captured the Arab part of the city in the 1967 Middle East War and then annexed it, claiming the whole of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.The issue of settlements, alongside that of Jerusalem's status, are among the thorniest in efforts to achieve a resolution of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The international community considers all Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, to be illegal. Peace talks, revived in late 2007 after a seven year hiatus, collapsed again after Israel launched a devastating offensive on the Gaza Strip in December 2008. The Palestinians have insisted they will not return to the negotiating table unless there is a total freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem. In November, Netanyahu's government announced a partial, 10-month moratorium on construction of settlement construction in the West Bank, excluding east Jerusalem.

Lebanon lodges complaint with UN over Israeli memorial
Fri Apr 23, 5:54 am ET

BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon has lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council over a memorial Israel inaugurated this week in the disputed Shebaa Farms border region, the foreign ministry said Friday.The ministry said the memorial was inaugurated on Wednesday but did not specify the nature of the edifice.This is a flagrant violation of international law and UN Security Council Resolution 1701,the ministry said.

Resolution 1701 helped bring an end to a devastating war between the militant group Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.The Shebaa Farms, a mountainous sliver of land rich in water resources measuring 25 square kilometres (10 square miles), is located at the junction of southeast Lebanon, southwest Syria and northern Israel.The area has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war and caught in a tug-of-war over ownership ever since.

Tracking smuggled Scud missiles not so simple: experts
by Dan De Luce – Thu Apr 22, 7:43 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – As Syria faces charges it may have supplied Hezbollah with Scud missiles, experts say spotting the weapons is no easy task -- which US and British forces learned in the first Gulf war.Smuggling missiles and mobile launchers into Lebanon without US or Israeli intelligence agencies noticing would be possible, but difficult,one US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

All you have to do is separate the tail from the missile, which is something you can do easily. And then move it to some other vehicle,said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.Moble launchers could also be taken apart to avoid detection, analysts said.Israel has accused Syria of arming Hezbollah with the ballistic missiles, a charge Damascus vehemently denies. US officials meanwhile say they cannot confirm if the weapons have been delivered to the Lebanese Shiite militia.In the 1990-91 Gulf war, allied aircraft -- along with US and British special forces on the ground -- struggled to track and take out Saddam Hussein's mobile Scuds, which were hidden in gullies and culverts and quickly shifted out of sight after any launch.

We flew thousands of missions to try to destroy Saddam?s Scuds which he was firing at Israel and Saudi Arabia. After the war we discovered we had missed every single time,said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Sensors and other military technology have improved since then, and Lebanon offers a smaller area to monitor than Iraq.Moreover, Israel has very good intelligence there, Riedel said, so they would probably do better.Once inside Lebanon, the missiles and launchers could be reassembled and hidden until Hezbollah was ready to use them.The missiles are most vulnerable when they are preparing to launch. Still it would be difficult to destroy every launcher before they fired, he said.Scud-type missiles, originally designed and produced by the Soviets, are usually about 11 meters (yards) long and have a range of roughly 300 kilometers (186 miles), though some versions can strike beyond 500 kilometers.Adding Scuds to Hezbollah's arsenal of rockets would strengthen the militia's position even though Israel would retain its military edge, analysts said.It does not dramatically change the equation but it means Hezbollah can fire at any target in Israel, Cordesman said.

A much bigger concern for Israel would be if the Scuds came with chemical warheads, experts said, but no one has made that allegation so far.Whether or not Scuds have been delivered, the Obama administration is convinced that Syria is stepping up military support to Hezbollah, US officials said.There's a narrow question of Scuds but there is a much broader concern about advanced weaponry,a US official, who asked not to be named, told reporters.The cooperation between Syria and Hezbollah is escalating and we think that is potentially destabilizing and adds risks in a region that already has more risks than it knows what to do with.It remained unclear why the accusation against Syria was leveled by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and not by military or intelligence officials offering details or evidence, analysts said. It's unusual for someone like Peres to make such an announcement,Cordesman said. Some lawmakers in Congress have seized on the allegations to argue against US efforts to promote dialogue with Syria. President Barack Obama in February appointed Robert Ford as the first US ambassador to Damascus in five years, although the Senate has yet to confirm him. Opting to supply Hezbollah with more powerful weaponry would fit in with a recent pattern in which Syria appears to have adopted a triumphalist mindset,wrote Steven Heydemann at the US Institute of Peace.

US and European diplomacy has failed so far to persuade Syria to move away from Iran's orbit and forge stronger ties to the West, he wrote on the Foreign Policy website. Instead, Syria's leaders have pocketed their gains and raised the stakes, strengthening Hezbollah's arsenal and deepening its strategic ties with Iran," Heydemann wrote.

Spain urges Israel to support Mediterranean Union
Thu Apr 22, 4:13 pm ET

MADRID (AFP) – Spain called on Israel Thursday to support the nascent Mediterranean Union as well as efforts to reach peace in the Middle East during a visit to Madrid by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos asked Lieberman for Israel's full cooperation with the Mediterranean Union, which is of maximum interest to Spain and all of its Euro-Mediterranean partners,the foreign ministry said in a statement.Moratinos also reiterated Spain's full support for the efforts of the administration of US President President Barack Obama to reach peace in the Middle East, it added.The 43-nation Mediterranean Union, whose headquarters is in Barcelona, was established in 2008 in Paris by France and Egypt.It groups all 27 EU member states with countries in North Africa, the Balkans, the Arab world as well as Israel in a bid to foster cooperation in one of the world's most volatile regions.Earlier this month talks in Barcelona between Mediterranean Union members aimed at adopting a water management strategy for the region ended in failure due to a row between Israel and Arab countries over a reference to the Palestinian territories.The stalemate was seen as a strong blow against the body, which will hold its first summit in Barcelona in June.

Netanyahu: Iran provoking Israel-Syria conflict
Thu Apr 22, 1:57 pm ET

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is trying to provoke a war between Israel and Syria.Netanyahu says Iran is trying to convince Syria that an Israeli attack is imminent, which he says is a lie.Tensions have been high recently between Israel and Syria. The sides have traded threats, and last week Israel accused Syria of smuggling powerful rockets to the Lebanese guerillas of Hezbollah. Syria denied the charge.Speaking in an interview Thursday with Israel's Channel 2 TV, Netanyahu repeated the charge that Syria and Iran are arming Hezbollah.

The Israeli leader also called on the U.S. to impose sanctions to block Iran's nuclear program.

Jordan confirms blast near Israeli city
Thu Apr 22, 11:15 am ET

AMMAN (AFP) – A blast hit the outskirts of the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba on Thursday, a minister told AFP, adding the kingdom had no information of reported rocket fire on the nearby Israeli resort of Eilat.An explosion occurred on Thursday morning in a refrigeration warehouse in the northern part of the city of Aqaba, causing no casualties and minimal damage,Information Minister Nabil Sharif said.

An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion, added the minister.Earlier, a senior Jordanian official said on condition of anonymity that the blast occurred in a plant on the outskirts of Aqaba at about 7:00 am (0400 GMT).
We know of no rockets in Eilat, he said.Other Jordanian officials told AFP that contacts had been made with Israeli authorities and that they made no mention of any rockets having fallen onto the Jewish state's territory.Israel's private Channel 10 television station reported that two Katyusha rockets fell near Eilat, one of them landing in the Red Sea off the port city and the other exploding outside Aqaba.The channel said it was also possible that the rockets were launched from Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

Neither the Israeli army nor the police would immediately confirm the incident.

The plant contains rubber products and lies on the northern outskirts of Aqaba, which belongs to a special economic zone established by the Jordanian city's authorities in 2001.Aqaba and Eilat are the neighbouring Red Sea ports of Jordan and Israel, which signed a peace agreement in October 1994 after decades of strained ties and conflict.The two ports are nestled in the Gulf of Aqaba, a narrow stretch of water bordered on one side by Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and the other by Saudi Arabia.In August 2005, three Katyusha rockets were fired in Aqaba, missing two US warships docked in the port but one hit a warehouse killing a Jordanian soldier while another landed across the border in Israel.

Mideast peace would thwart Iran ambitions: Obama aide By Matt Spetalnick – Wed Apr 21, 10:30 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama's administration said on Wednesday that progress toward Middle East peace would help thwart Iran's ambitions by preventing it from cynically using the conflict to divert attention from its nuclear program.Drawing an explicit link between Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and Washington's drive to isolate Iran, Obama's national security adviser, Jim Jones, urged bold steps to revive long-stalled Middle East negotiations.U.S. officials hope that shared Arab-Israeli concerns about Iran can be exploited to spur old foes to help advance Israeli-Palestinian peace and restrain Tehran's nuclear activities and rising influence in the region.Jones coupled an appeal to Israel and its Arab neighbors to take risks for peace with a warning to Iran that it would face real consequences for its nuclear defiance. Obama is leading a push to tighten U.N. sanctions on Tehran.One of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict,Jones told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.Advancing this peace would ... help prevent Iran from cynically shifting attention away from its failures to meet its obligations, he said.The Israeli government, locked in a dispute with the United States over Jewish settlement policy, has made clear it sees confronting Iran as more of a security priority for Washington, and Middle East peace should be handled on a separate track.

Jones -- while voicing disappointment over the failure to jumpstart U.S.-sponsored indirect peace talks -- insisted progress toward peace is a U.S. interest as well.
That seemed to echo Obama's assertion last week that a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict was a vital national security interest,adding to speculation that he was considering his own broad peace proposal.


While acknowledging disagreements with Israel, Jones said the U.S. commitment to its ally was unbreakable.There is no space -- no space -- between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security,he said.Still, he urged all sides to avoid provocative actions, including Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and Palestinians' incitement that fuels suspicion rather than trust.Jones reasserted that Washington is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,saying U.S. efforts are aimed at avoiding a nuclear arms race in the region and the proliferation of nuclear technology to terrorist organizations.Israel is the only assumed nuclear weapons power in the Middle East. Western powers accuse Tehran of seeking to develop a bomb, but it insists its nuclear activities are peaceful.The Obama administration's Middle East peace moves have been stymied by a dispute over Jewish settlement construction in and around Jerusalem and by divisions among the Palestinians.Washington has tried to get Israel and the Palestinians to launch proximity talks but has made scant headway. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave little ground in White House talks with Obama last month.(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Chris Wilson)

US: Syria missile reports deeply troubling By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer – Wed Apr 21, 4:38 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Wednesday it has warned Syria numerous times in recent weeks that transferring ballistic missiles to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia could lead to a new war in the Middle East.The administration's top diplomat for the region, Jeffrey Feltman, told a congressional committee that the message had been conveyed to senior Syrian officials at least five times since late February.

Feltman would not confirm reports that Syria has sent Scud missiles to Hezbollah, but said such giving such weapons to Hezbollah would be an incendiary, provocative action that could affect war and peace in (the) region. He said the U.S. viewed the matter with the gravest concern and would keep all options open to deal with it.The dire warning comes as Israel, which regards Hezbollah as a major threat, has accused Syria of providing the group with Scuds. Scuds have a far longer range and can carry a much bigger warhead than rockets Hezbollah has used in the past and could reach anywhere in Israel from Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon. Syria has denied the charge, as has Lebanon's Western-backed prime minister.If these reports turn out to be true, we're going to have to review the whole range of tools that are available for us in order to make Syria reverse what would be an incendiary, provocative action,Feltman told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.I expect that all options are going to be on the table looking at this.He did not elaborate.Beginning on Feb. 26, U.S. officials summoned Syria's U.S. ambassador because we were so concerned with information we had that Syria was passing increasingly sophisticated ballistic weapons to Hezbollah,Feltman said. Similar warnings were passed to the ambassador or his deputy on March 1, March 10 and March 19, he said.In addition, Feltman said he had raised the matter earlier Wednesday in a phone call with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. He added the concerns underscored the need to send a new U.S. ambassador to Damascus to ensure that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad understands the situation.

When President Assad is taking decisions that could affect war and peace in his region he needs to have clear understanding of what the implications are, what the U.S. positions are and what the red lines are,Feltman said.Some lawmakers are threatening to hold up the confirmation of the administration's choice to be the first U.S. ambassador Syria in five years, career diplomat Robert Ford, because of the Scud reports.Feltman argued that limiting American access to Assad would be a mistake since the Syrian president is speaking with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.President Assad is making decisions in a very volatile and dangerous region, he said.Syria has made mistakes before and Syria has, in fact, paid the consequences for those mistakes.He is listening to people like Hassan Nasrallah, he is listening to people like Ahmadinejad,Feltman said.We need to be making our message to him loud and clear and directly.

Jerusalem reopens popular Old City gate By GRANT SLATER, Associated Press Writer – Wed Apr 21, 11:34 am ET

JERUSALEM – Israel reopened a 16th-century gate to Jerusalem's Old City on Wednesday, completing a two-month renovation and cleaning project that drew criticism from Palestinian officials.Jaffa Gate, one of four main entrances to the Old City, was built by Jerusalem's Ottoman rulers and inaugurated in 1538. It is the most common entrance for tourists entering the walled Old City — home to key holy sites in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, as well as a popular outdoor marketplace.

The restoration was part of a $4 million project launched by the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2007 to spruce up all two and a half miles (four kilometers) of the Old City's walls.The authority replaced broken stones, reattached an elaborate inscription above the gate and cleaned the facade with lye. Because Jaffa Gate provides one of the few entrances for vehicles, the stones had a decades-old coating of car exhaust residue, said Yoram Saad, who headed the renovation.The portal stands at a right angle to the western exterior wall of the Old City, made of the same large, 16th-century sand-colored hewn stone blocks. The entrance is about 20 feet (6 meters) high, and the wall rises another 20 feet (6 meters) above it.The renovation project has proven challenging because of the difficulty in restoring ancient stones and the project's political and religious overtones.It's very sensitive of course and very complex from a logistical point of view, Saad said. The organization is saving the Damascus Gate, which leads from the Muslim Quarter to a bustling Arab neighborhood, for last.The Old City is in east Jerusalem, the section of the city claimed by the Palestinians as their future capital. It is also home to the most sensitive holy site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.Even the smallest changes to the appearance of the Old City can raise tensions or even spark violence, as evidenced by recent Arab protests that erupted after Israel renovated an ancient synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.

Wednesday's ceremony proceeded without incident, though recent improvements around Jaffa Gate, including an upscale pedestrian mall, have fueled Palestinian concerns that city officials are trying to shift commerce away from the bustling Damascus Gate.It is an attempt to hit hard at commercial life in the Old City, especially the Muslim Quarter,said Hatem Abdel Qader, an adviser on Jerusalem affairs to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barkat, said city authorities have a duty to repair and restore the walls of the Old City, calling them a national asset and a place for pilgrims.The most important thing is that it's the right thing to do. That's the only angle people should view it from, Barkat said.

Jaffa Gate was not used heavily until the end of the 19th century when part of the wall nearby was torn down to allow Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II to enter the Old City in his carriage.It was the scene of intense fighting in 1948 and remained closed while Jerusalem was a divided city until 1967, when Israel captured the city's eastern sector and annexed it. The antiquities authority left the pockmarked stones from firefights in place.


Growing number of Palestinians back one-state solution: poll
Wed Apr 21, 4:18 am ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – A growing number of Palestinians support the establishment of a single state for Jews and Arabs including Israel and the occupied territories, according to a poll released on Wednesday.The survey by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre (JMCC) found that support for a bi-national state in which Israelis and Palestinians would have equal rights had grown to 33.8 percent from 20.6percent in June 2009.During the same period, support for a negotiated two-state solution dropped from 55.2 percent to 43.9 percent, while 32.1 percent of respondents said the peace process is dead in response to a separate question.Most Palestinians, 43.7 percent, support peaceful negotiations, while 29.8 percent support armed struggle and 21.9 percent support peaceful resistance as the best strategy for ending the Israeli occupation, the poll found.Concerning internal politics, the poll found that 39.7 percent of voters would back the secular Fatah movement if elections were held this year, compared to just 14.4 percent would would vote for the Islamist Hamas.The Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas remains the most popular leader, and would receive 19.1 percent of the vote compared to his closest Hamas rival Ismail Haniyah, who would receive 11.2 percent.However, nearly 30 percent of Palestinians said they would not vote in legislative or presidential elections if they were held now.

Pollsters conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,198 adults throughout the West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on April 10-15. The survey had a margin of error of three percent.The international community along with Israeli and Palestinian leaders formally committed to a two-state solution with the 2003 roadmap agreement, and the idea of a single state has little support outside of academic circles.Israel adamantly opposes a one-state solution because it would most likely have a Palestinian majority and result in the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Hezbollah probably has Scud missiles: US senator
Tue Apr 20, 6:02 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has most likely acquired Scud missiles and improved its rocket-firing technology to the point of real danger for Israel, a top US senator warned Tuesday.I believe there is a likelihood that there are Scuds that Hezbollah has in Lebanon. A high likelihood, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, told AFP.

The rockets and missiles in Lebanon are substantially increased and better technologically than they were and this is a real point of danger for Israel, Feinstein added.There's only one thing that's going to solve it, and that's a two-state solution,she said, referring to stalled international efforts to create an independent, viable Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.Israeli President Shimon Peres on April 13 accused Syria of providing Hezbollah with Scud ballistic missiles, prompting Washington to warn that the trade potentially puts Lebanon at significant risk.

Syria has strongly denied the accusations.The US State Department says it is yet to determine the veracity of the claims but summoned a senior Syrian diplomat Monday to demand an immediate end to arms transfers to Hezbollah.Feinstein spoke after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri likened Israel's charges to false weapons of mass destruction claims that fed the US case for invading Iraq in 2003.Asked about the alleged arms transfer, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry told AFP on Tuesday: that has not been confirmed.I think it's safe to say we're inquiring and trying to get more information about it. I wouldn't comment on what it is, or isn't, at this point in time, he said.There are concerns about rocketry in general, and clearly Hezbollah has been rearmed, but I don't think there's clarity as to which weapons yet, with specificity, and where. Where is very important in this question.

Israelis celebrate Jewish state's 62nd birthday
Tue Apr 20, 12:37 pm ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israelis fired up barbecues in packed campgrounds and beaches across the country on Tuesday as they celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state.The air force and navy held displays, including a helicopter overflight of the president's residence in Jerusalem.President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi staged a singalong of Israeli songs at the presidential residence.Celebrations kicked off at sundown on Monday with fireworks in honour of Israel's founding on May 14, 1948, corresponding this year to April 20, according to the Jewish calendar.The occupied West Bank was sealed off from Israel and annexed Arab east Jerusalem for the duration of Israel's only secular public holiday.US President Barack Obama released a statement to honour the anniversary and affirm his country's unbreakable bond with Israel.He said he looked forward to continuing our efforts with Israel to achieve comprehensive peace and security in the region, including a two-state solution with the Palestinians.We once again honour the extraordinary achievements of the people of Israel, and their deep and abiding friendship with the American people,he said.

Ties between Israel and its main ally have been deeply strained as Netanyahu has rebuffed US and Palestinian demands for a halt to settlement construction in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, one of just two Arab states to have signed peace treaties with Israel, also used the occasion to call for renewed peace efforts.I am pleased to congratulate you on the occasion of your Independence Day celebrations, he said in a letter to Israeli President Shimon Peres.I would like to take this opportunity to call on you once again to redouble your efforts to get the Middle East peace process back on track in order to end the cycle of violence and bloodshed.Meanwhile, thousands of Israel's Arab citizens marked the Nakba, or catastrophe,that attended the Jewish state's creation, when some 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Protesters carrying Palestinian flags and signs with the names of destroyed Arab villages marched to the site of the village of Maskah, emptied in 1948, to demand the right of return for those exiled following Israel's birth.Today more than 4.7 million UN-registered refugees live in camps in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and their fate is one of the thorniest issues in the decades-old Middle East conflict.


Imposed Mideast solution would stoke violence: Israel FM
Tue Apr 20, 4:21 pm ET

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – In a veiled warning to President Barack Obama, Israel's foreign minister said on Tuesday that any move to impose a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians would lead to greater conflict.Any attempt to force a solution on the parties without establishing the foundation of mutual trust will only deepen the conflict, Avigdor Lieberman told the assembled diplomatic corps at an event marking Israel's Independence Day.Though he made no reference to the United States, the remark appeared to be a response to recent speculation in Washington that Obama may consider proposing a peace settlement in the absence of a negotiated deal between the Palestinians and Israel.Lieberman, who leads a far-right, pro-settler party in the coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that before negotiating a final settlement of the 62-year-old conflict, it would be necessary first to establish a new reality in which Israel enjoys security, the Palestinians greater prosperity and both sides more stability.He also told the assembled ambassadors in the grounds of the presidential residence in Jerusalem that Israel would never give up its control of all of Jerusalem, a city at the heart of the conflict.Many foreign powers support a negotiated settlement of the dispute over Jerusalem that would satisfy Palestinian aspirations to have the capital of their future state in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in a war in 1967.(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Andrew Roche)

U.S. warns Syria on weapons transfers By Andrew Quinn – Mon Apr 19, 9:52 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States summoned the senior Syrian diplomat in Washington on Monday to address provocative behavior regarding the potential transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah that it said could be a threat to both Lebanon and Israel.The United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the SCUD, from Syria to Hezbollah, the statement, issued by State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid, said.

The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon.The U.S. statement stopped short of confirming the alleged transfer of long-range Scud missiles to Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, which if true could cast doubt on U.S. President Barack Obama's diplomatic outreach to Syria.The State Department said this was the fourth time in recent months that Washington has raised the issue with the Syrian Embassy.U.S. officials said last week they believed Syria intended to transfer the weaponry, but had doubts about whether the missiles were delivered fully assembled or had actually been transferred to Lebanon.Damascus has denied the transfer and said Israel might be using the accusation as a pretext for a military strike against Syrian targets.


The U.S. statement was a strong warning to Damascus, saying that weapons transfers were an obstacle to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and noting that Syria's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was tied to its support for groups such as Hezbollah.The risk of miscalculation that could result from this type of escalation should make Syria reverse the ill-conceived policy it has pursued in providing arms to Hezbollah, the statement said.We call for an immediate cessation of any arms transfers to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations in the region.

A senior U.S. official, while declining to confirm any U.S. intelligence related to the Scuds, said the statement was a sign that the allegations were being taken seriously.We wouldn't have called them in if we didn't think something was going on, the official said.The alleged deal to transfer the Scud missiles to Hezbollah has fueled cross-border tensions with Israel, which remains wary of the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Islamist group that it went to war with in 2006.With Iranian support, Hezbollah has replenished its arsenal beyond levels it had in the 2006 war with Israel, according to a Pentagon report on Iran's military sent to Congress and made public on Monday.Scud missiles in Hezbollah hands could strike deep inside Israel, while a partial transfer could involve weapons parts, documents or funding, according to U.S. officials.If the transfer is confirmed, it could create fresh obstacles to U.S. Senate confirmation of a new ambassador being returned to Damascus after a five-year absence.The Obama administration has said that improved U.S. diplomatic ties with Syria are an important part of the Mideast peace process. (Additional reporting by Joanne Allen, Editing by Philip Barbara)

Hamas leader vows to capture more Israeli soldiers
Mon Apr 19, 4:55 pm ET

DAMASCUS, Syria – The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas has vowed to capture more Israeli soldiers to use in bargaining for the release of Palestinian prisoners.Khaled Mashaal accused Israel of obstructing a deal to trade Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit for hundreds of jailed militants.Gaza militants captured Schalit in a 2006 cross-border raid. A deal brokered by Egypt and Germany for his release had appeared close in November.The exiled Mashaal also said America's insistence that Hamas recognize Israel was to blame for the failure of talks to reconcile the Gaza militants with their moderate Palestinian rivals in the West Bank. The split has complicated peace efforts.Mashaal spoke Monday at a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria.

Israel celebrates independence, remembers fallen by Gavin Rabinowitz – Mon Apr 19, 2:41 pm ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israelis celebrated 62 years since the founding of the Jewish state with fireworks and street parties after sundown on Monday.The festivities will continue until sundown on Tuesday, with thousands expected to flock to parks and nature reserves for traditional barbecues and family gatherings.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the day as a double miracle in the life of the Jewish people.The first miracle is the restoration of Jewish sovereignty, Netanyahu said in an Independence Day message.The second miracle is what we've done since the establishment of the Jewish state. Israel is fast becoming a regional economic power and one of the world's leading technological powers,he said.Israel was founded on May 14, 1948, which according to the Jewish calendar corresponds this year to April 20.Celebrations began after a state ceremony that marks the annual transition from a day of mourning for Israel's fallen to Independence Day celebrations.

Also Monday, about 1,000 people, mostly Israeli peace activists and Israeli Arabs, held an alternative ceremony in Jerusalem where they championed human rights and called on the Jewish state to end its occupation of the West Bank.Earlier in the day, traffic ground to a halt across Israel as drivers joined pedestrians in two minutes of silence while sirens wailed in commemoration of fallen soldiers and attack victims.The memorial day started at sunset Sunday and continues for 24 hours. For the duration, radio stations play sombre music and television channels replace regular entertainment programmes with documentaries on Israel's wars.The two minutes of silence was announced by air raid sirens at 11:00 am (0800 GMT) and official ceremonies were scheduled at dozens of military cemeteries and memorials.President Shimon Peres paid homage to the dead in a ceremony on Sunday at Judaism's holiest site, the Western or Wailing Wall in the Old City of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed.As flags flew at half-mast, Peres called on Israel's enemies, including arch-foe Iran, not to underestimate Israel's capacity to defend itself.Israel, which has the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, has never ruled out a resort to military action to prevent the development of an atomic bomb by Iran which, it regards as its principal strategic threat.Iran has repeatedly predicted Israel's demise and warned of a devastating response to any attack on its territory.

According to government data, 112 members of the Israeli security forces, including police and the Shin Bet internal intelligence agency, have died on active service in the past 12 months.

Israeli PM dismisses Jerusalem settlement freeze
Mon Apr 19, 10:44 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed demands for a freeze on Jewish settlements in annexed east Jerusalem as a non-starter, in a US television interview aired Monday.The issue of settlements, and construction in east Jerusalem in particular, have caused a rare public row between the Israeli and US governments, and soured Netanyahu's visit to Washington last month.The Palestinian demand is that we prevent Jews from building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Netanyahu told the ABC News show Good Morning America.You know, that is an unacceptable demand. If we made it in London or made it in New York or in Paris, people would cry foul.Netanyahu was careful in the interview to attribute calls for a halt to such settlements to the Palestinians, and not the United States, which has also condemned such activity in east Jerusalem.Washington has reportedly called on Netanyahu to embrace a four-month settlement freeze in east Jerusalem, one of several demands to improve the chances of relaunching peace talks with the Palestinians.But the Israeli leader argued in the interview that the status of Jerusalem would only be decided in final status talks with Palestinians on a two-state solution to the conflict.

This demand that they've now introduced, the Palestinians, to stop all construction, Jewish construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, is totally, totally a non-starter.Palestinians, however, counter that Israeli settlement construction is an attempt to establish facts on the ground before final status talks, and have demanded a total freeze on such activity.Israel in November announced a 10-month halt to new construction in the occupied West Bank following months of US pressure on both sides to relaunch peace talks suspended after the outbreak of the Gaza war in late 2008.The Palestinians dismissed the move as insufficient because it left out east Jerusalem -- which they view as their future capital -- as well as public buildings and housing projects already underway.Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it, in a move not recognised by the international community. It views all of Jerusalem as its capital.The United States has warned that new construction in east Jerusalem or the West Bank endangers the prospect of proximity talks it is trying to broker between the two sides.

Israel must tackle core Mideast issuest: Barak
Mon Apr 19, 9:46 am ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel must tackle the core issues of its conflict with the Palestinians in order to close a rift with top ally the United States, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday.The tension that is developing with the United States is not in Israel's interest, he told public radio.We must radically alter this situation through a political initiative dealing with the core issues at the heart of the conflict with the Palestinians, he said.The so-called core issues of the decades-old conflict include the future status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and final borders.Israel and the US administration have been locked in a bitter spat since last month's announcement that 1,600 new settler homes would be built in Arab east Jerusalem, which coincided with a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden.Barak stressed Israel must realise the international community is not willing to accept decades more of Israeli rule over the Palestinians.He also dismissed concerns voiced by Jordan's King Abdullah II over the risks of a new conflict in the region.I believe and think that there is no reason for war to break out,Barak said.Certainly we have no intention of starting something like that, and I hope there will be no deterioration from other directions.In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Abdullah said last week that if there is no Middle East peace process by the summer there's a very good chance for conflict.

Barak said he did not interpret Abdullah's words as a threat.Obviously he doesn't mean that Jordan will start it. It's a very important peace-loving country,he said.
Jordan became the second Arab state after Egypt to conclude a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.The Middle East peace talks were halted in December 2008 when Israel launched its devastating Gaza offensive aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire.The Palestinians had reluctantly agreed to hold indirect talks with the Israelis last month, but that deal collapsed days later when the new east Jerusalem settlement plans were announced.

Israel population nears 7.6 million
Sun Apr 18, 9:55 am ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel's population is nearing 7.6 million, official figures showed on Sunday ahead of the 62nd anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state.

Of the 7,587,000 population, 5,726,000, or 75.5 percent, are Jews and 1,548,000, or 20.4 percent, are Arabs, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.The population has grown by 137,000 people in the past year, a 1.8 percent increase.The official statistics for Israel's Arab population include 270,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.They carry permanent residency IDs but the vast majority have declined citizenship of Israel, which this year celebrates its independence from sunset on Monday to sunset the following day.Israel's nearly 1.3 million Arab citizens are descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who remained in the Jewish state after the Middle East war that erupted following Israel's creation in 1948.About 750,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out during the conflict, and now more than 4.7 million UN-registered refugees live in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and neighbouring Arab countries.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Ahmadinejad extolls Iran's military might By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer - APR 18,10

TEHRAN, Iran – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday extolled Iran's military might during an annual army parade, saying the country is so powerful today that no one would dare attack it.The parade in Tehran showcased Iran's surface-to-surface Ghadr, Sajjil and Shahab-3 missiles, which have a range of up to 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) that puts Israel and U.S. bases in the region within Iran's reach.The Shahab-3 missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Although Tehran doesn't have one, this has been a source for Western concerns along with Iran's controversial uranium enrichment program, which the international community fears masks ambitions for an atomic bomb.Today, our armed forces have so much power that no enemy will harbor evil thoughts about laying its hands on Iranian territory, Ahmadinejad said at the parade marking National Army Day. The speech was broadcast live on state TV, which also showed segments of the parade.Ahmadinejad also urged the U.S. to stop supporting Israel and to dismantle the American military presence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.Tehran sees American troops on its doorstep in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf as a threat, and Ahmadinejad reiterated his allegations that the U.S. presence is the source of the region's instability.They have to leave our region, this is not a request, it is an order from the nations of the region. It is the will of the regional nations,said Ahmadinejad. If they are interested in helping the security of the region, they have to dismantle their military presence in the region and stop supporting Israel.The U.S. has been pressing for new round of international sanctions against Iran after Tehran spurned President Barack Obama's offer for dialogue over its accelerated nuclear development. The administration has pursued what it calls pressure track — a combination of stepped-up military activity in Iran's neighborhood and sanctions that would pinch Iran economically.

But, according to a report by The New York Times on Sunday, a January memo from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the White House warned that the U.S. lacks a nimble long-term plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear program.Gates' three-page memo set off efforts in the Pentagon, White House and intelligence agencies to come up with new options, including the use of the military, the Times said, quoting unnamed government officials.However, White House officials Saturday night strongly disagreed the memo caused a reconsideration of the U.S. approach to Iran.It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options, National Security Council spokesman Benjamin Rhodes told The Associated Press.This administration has been planning for all contingencies regarding Iran for many months.Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and fighter planes.Tehran has been also looking to upgrade its defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Tehran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, such as electricity production

The advances in Iran's military technology cannot be independently verified.

Iranian news agencies reported that the parade Sunday also displayed an air defense system similar to Russian-made S-300, which is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missile warheads at ranges of over 90 miles (145 kilometers) and at altitudes of about 90,000 feet.Iran ordered Russia's advanced S-300 air defense system in 2007 but none have been delivered, allegedly due to technical glitches, though many believe the delay stems from international opposition to the sale.Associated Press National Security Writer Anne Gearan and AP writer Jackie Quinn contributed to this report.

Israel should reconsider settlement curb: minister
Sun Apr 18, 4:57 am ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel should consider reversing a limited moratorium on new settlement construction if the Palestinians do not return to US-backed peace negotiations, a minister said in comments published on Sunday.If another month or two pass, and the Palestinians don?t come to the negotiations, we ought to cancel or reconsider the freeze, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told the online edition of the Jerusalem Post.If you take a step that is not at all effective and may even be counter-productive... then it needs to be reconsidered,he said.Israel in November announced a 10-month halt to new construction in the occupied West Bank following months of US pressure on both sides to relaunch peace talks suspended after the outbreak of the Gaza war in late 2008.The Palestinians dismissed the move as insufficient because it left out east Jerusalem -- which they view as their future capital -- as well as public buildings and housing projects already under way.

Israel has adamantly refused to halt construction in east Jerusalem, which it occupied in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community. It views all of Jerusalem as its capital.Steinitz, a senior member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, said the prime minister had made major concessions to the Palestinians by slowing settlement growth, easing movement restrictions in the West Bank and accepting a Palestinian state in principle.He added that any further pressure from Washington would be a mistaken request and an unfair one and that Israel was thus far disappointed with the Palestinian response.

Israel seals West Bank as security precaution
Sun Apr 18, 3:17 am ET

JERUSALEM – Israel has barred the entry of nearly all Palestinians from the West Bank as a security measure because of observances for Memorial Day and Independence Day.

The closure is to be lifted at midnight Tuesday.

Israel is always on a heightened state of precaution during national observances. Memorial Day begins on Sunday night and is followed by Independence Day, which begins Monday night and lasts through Tuesday.The military says Palestinians in need of medical attention will be permitted to enter for care. A small number of media crews and professional groups such as lawyers and religious workers will be allowed to cross over. Humanitarian aid will also be allowed to pass.

Hamas, Fatah join ranks to call for Israel to free prisoners by Adel Zaanoun – Sat Apr 17, 9:49 am ET

GAZA CITY (AFP) – Hamas and Fatah closed ranks on Saturday to mark Palestinian Prisoners' Day on Saturday, in the first joint initiative by the bitter rivals since the latter was routed from Gaza in 2007.Representatives of the two factions, joined by members of smaller militant groups, relatives of prisoners and international activists, staged a sit-down protest and 24-hour fast outside the Gaza City offices of the Red Cross.Ismail Haniya, head of the Hamas government in Gaza, made a brief visit to call for Palestinian reconciliation and urge all Palestinians to fight Israeli occupation by any means and pressure Israel to free thousands of prisoners.

We must put aside anything that can harm our unity, Fatah representative Raafat Hamdouna said, hailing Saturday's joint protest with the Islamist movement Hamas which expelled Fatah in deadly street fighting in June 2007.This year's rallies and vigils in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem in support of the prisoners came a day after a detainee died in Israeli custody.In Ramallah, about 1,000 people marched through the centre of the West Bank city, carrying pictures of imprisoned relatives and of Marwan Barghuti, a jailed leader of the mainstream Fatah party.Barghuti, architect of the 2000 uprising against Israeli occupation, is serving five life terms but remains popular and is often spoken of as a successor to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.We shall not rest until the prisoners issue is resolved, prisoners' affairs minister Issa Qaraqae told the crowd in Ramallah.Abbas said in a statement for the annual Prisoners' Day that there could be no end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without the release of the prisoners.

There cannot be a solution or peace in our region without a final resolution of the prisoner issue and the release of all Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons,he said.A man serving a 10-year sentence for attempted murder died in his prison cell in southern Israel late on Friday, Qaraqae's ministry said, adding he was the 19th Palestinian to die in Israeli custody over the past decade.Israeli prisons service officials, quoted in the media, said the man, Raed Abu Hamad, 31, had a history of medical problems and that his death was being investigated.In east Jerusalem, relatives held pictures of their jailed loved ones at the entrance to the walled Old City.In Gaza City, Haniya met prisoners' aid officials and called on Arab countries to donate funds for prisoners and their families, in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.More than 7,000 Palestinians, including 270 under the age of 18, are currently being held in Israeli prisons, according to data released by the Palestinian central bureau of statistics.Three of the prisoners have been in jail for more than 30 years, and 315 for more than 15 years, the office said in a statement released on the eve of Prisoners' Day.Of those held, 264 are under administrative detention, meaning they are being held without trial.Since Israel seized the West Bank along with other Arab territories in the 1967 Middle East war, it has detained a total of more than 760,000 Palestinians, the statement said.

Scud allegations may prompt Israeli raid: Hezbollah
Sat Apr 17, 9:44 am ET

BEIRUT (AFP) – US concern over allegations that Syria has been supplying Scud missiles to Hezbollah serves to encourage Israel to attack Lebanon, the Lebanese Shiite militant group said on Saturday.Israeli President Shimon Peres has accused Damascus of providing Hezbollah with the missiles, prompting Washington to warn that the trade potentially puts Lebanon at significant risk.With this position, (the Americans) are encouraging Israel to carry out an aggression against Lebanon that they are trying to endorse at the international level,Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad told AFP.The United States is thus placing itself in a position of complicity in the event of aggression and it will have to take responsibility,he said.Fayyad said that Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, did not comment on Israeli inventions on its arsenal but Peres's accusation on Tuesday had made the situation more tense than before.Such statements exacerbate tension and directly threaten the stability of the region,the MP said, accusing Washington of trying to cover up its failures as well as those of Israel in the Middle East.According to Arab media and some think-tanks, Syria has been sending some of its own arsenal of Scuds to Lebanon, an allegation denied by Damascus.We are obviously increasingly concerned about the sophisticated weaponry that is allegedly being transferred, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Wednesday.We have expressed our concerns to those governments and believe that steps should be taken to reduce any risk and any danger, Gibbs said, apparently referring to the Israeli and Syrian governments.Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 fought a 34-day war which killed 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mainly soldiers.

Iran wins regional support for its nuclear programme
Sat Apr 17, 8:38 am ET

TEHRAN (AFP) – Syria, Lebanon and Iraq backed Iran's atomic programme on Saturday, which they said has peaceful aims, and insisted that Israel be stripped off its nuclear arsenal.The foreign ministers of these three countries also stressed that Israel, the Middle East's sole but undeclared holder of a nuclear arsenal, must join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).We back Iran for pursuing peaceful nuclear technology,said Syria's Walid Muallem in a speech at the opening of a two-day nuclear disarmament conference hosted by Tehran, according to ISNA news agency.His Lebanese counterpart, Ali al-Shami, said Iran was seeking nuclear energy for peaceful aims and it was not deviating from the treaty,the official IRNA news agency reported.And Hoshyar Zebari, foreign minister of former foe Iraq, said: We reject any threat against Iran and insist on Iran's rights to use peaceful nuclear energy.

The three leaders, however, strongly urged for Israel to join the NPT.The major threat in the region is Israel which has nuclear warheads. Israel must join this treaty and take quick steps to destroy its nuclear weapons which number over 200 warheads, Muallem said.Shami said Israel needed to be stripped off its nuclear arsenal.There is more need to strip Israel of its nuclear arsenal, as the international community is aware of its nuclear weapons capability and that this regime has defiantly declared it will use these weapons whenever it wants,he said.

Since the atomic weapons of the Zionist regime are not inspected, there is a danger of these weapons being used in future. This regime must join the NPT without any conditions.Zebari said Israel must allow UN inspectors in to its nuclear facilities, the state television website said.Israel has not ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities to stop its atomic programme which the West suspects is aimed at making weapons.Tehran denies the charge.

Hezbollah says its missiles not Israel's business By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Writer – Fri Apr 16, 11:28 am ET

BEIRUT – A Hezbollah government minister refused Friday to confirm or deny Israeli allegations that the militant Lebanese group has acquired Scud missiles.In the first Hezbollah comment on the Israeli charges, Minister Hussein Haj Hassan said the group was always arming and preparing itself but, what we have is not their business.Israeli defense officials have said they believe Hezbollah has obtained Scud missiles capable of hitting targets anywhere in Israel. Israel's President Shimon Peres earlier this week directly accused Damascus of providing the weapons.

Israel has not offered proof to back up the claim, and Syria's Foreign Ministry strongly denied the charge, saying it believes that Israel aims through these claims to further strain the atmosphere in the region.It added that Israel could be setting the stage for a possible aggression in order to run away from the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace.Haj Hassan also told Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV Friday that Israel possessed all kinds of weapons, including nuclear warheads.It's only natural for Lebanon to have the means to defend itself against an Israeli attack,he said.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.

Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has said his militants have more than 30,000 rockets and are capable of hitting anywhere in Israel. Those claims match Israeli intelligence assessments.Some Scud missiles have a range of hundreds of miles (kilometers), meaning that guerrillas could launch them from deeper inside Lebanon and farther from Israel's reach. Scuds can carry a warhead of up to 1 ton, making them far larger than the biggest rockets previously in Hezbollah's arsenal, and are also more accurate.Also Friday, around 20 villagers from the southern Lebanese town of Abbasiyeh removed a barbed wire that was set up three days earlier by Israeli troops just south of the Blue Line, which separates Israeli and Lebanese forces.A spokesman for Israel's armed forces said the military is aware of the demonstration but unaware of any damage caused to the fence.He would not comment further.The demonstration was a protest against the fence, placed by the Israelis earlier this week. Some Lebanese says the blue line is not accurate and had given parts of Lebanon to Israel. The villagers were led by a lawmaker close to Hezbollah, Qassem Hashem.U.N. spokesman, Andrea Teneti said the villagers also removed a minefield sign and placed Lebanese flags near the location.

Israel warns visitors to leave their iPads at home
Fri Apr 16, 9:58 am ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel on Friday warned visitors to leave their iPads at home or have the hot-selling tablet computer seized on arrival as the device's wireless signal is 40 times stronger than allowed.Communications ministry spokesman Yechiel Shavi said several of the appliances already impounded by officials at Israel's Ben Gurion airport would be returned to their owners on departure.In the case of Israeli residents whose Apple device was confiscated, they can sell them to Americans, he told AFP.The touchscreen gadget is so far only on sale in the United States, where federal regulations allow much higher Wi-Fi signal strength than the European standard followed in Israel.At least 10 iPads have so far been taken from travellers who declared them at Israeli customs, the Jerusalem Post newspaper reported. An unknown number could have entered undeclared.When a version of the device set to European standards goes on the market it would be welcome in Israel, the communications ministry said.But the onus was on the individual to ascertain that any Wi-Fi equipment they plan to bring into the country meets local standards.

Around the world thousands of models of computers are manufactured and therefore a customer who buys a device abroad must check that it is suitable for use in Israel, a ministry statement said.

Olmert, ex-mayor set for interrogation room face-off by Patrick Moser – Fri Apr 16, 4:49 am ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert is set for an interrogation room face-off in the Holyland real estate scandal with a fellow suspect, who like him is an ex-Jerusalem mayor, YNet news said Friday.The investigators are expected to face them off because each one of them says the other is responsible, the online news site reported.Just hours after he was officially named in the corruption affair, Olmert, 64, on Thursday called the claims against him an attempt at character assassination.In a brief television statement, the former prime minister appeared to blame Uri Lupolianski, who succeeded him as mayor of the Holy City in 2003, and who is under house arrest as a suspect in the scandal.The affair revolves around the upscale Holyland, a residential complex which media has lambasted as a monstrous blot on Jerusalem's landscape.On Thursday, police lifted a gag order that had prevented the naming of Olmert among the suspects in the scandal in which officials are alleged to have received bribes to smooth the way for construction of the grandiose hilltop complex in the 1990s.Israeli media say Olmert is suspected of having taken a bribe of 3.5 million shekels (almost one million dollars at the current exchange rate).Police last week also arrested former Olmert associate Uri Messer and several other suspects, including Lupolianski.

Messer is himself a witness in a separate graft trial currently under way against Olmert.In December, Olmert pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption linked to three other cases. He resigned under pressure in September 2008 after police recommended he be indicted.He is accused of unlawfully accepting gifts of cash-stuffed envelopes from Jewish-American businessman Morris Talanski and of multiple-billing for foreign trips.Olmert has also been charged with cronyism in relation to an investment centre which he oversaw when he was trade and industry minister between 2003 and 2006.The 61-page indictment includes allegations of fraud, breach of trust, registering false corporate documents and concealing fraudulent earnings.

That case is expected to drag on for several months, if not years. If found guilty, Olmert could face a prison term, although it is unclear for how long.Attorney General Menachem Mazuz dropped three other corruption probes against Olmert, who was named by Time Magazine as Israel's most able politician when he took over as premier from the ailing Ariel Sharon in May 2006.All the charges relate to a period before Olmert became premier. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and then served as trade and industry minister.

Israel PM must show sincerity on peace: Clinton by Shaun Tandon – Thu Apr 15, 11:13 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prove his commitment to a Palestinian state, warning that prolonged conflict only strengthened extremists.Amid US tensions with Netanyahu, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged bold leadership from all sides to resolve one of the world's most intractable disputes and also pressed Arab states to show they wanted to make peace.Speaking at a dinner attended by the ambassadors of Israel and several Arab states, Clinton was forthright in her demands of Netanyahu, urging Israel to refrain from unilateral statements and actions that could undermine peace.Prime Minister Netanyahu has embraced the vision of the two-state solution,Clinton said.

But easing up on access and movement in the West Bank, in response to credible Palestinian security performance, is not sufficient to prove to the Palestinians that this embrace is sincere,she said.We encourage Israel to continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza.Clinton warned that the long freeze in the peace process was strengthening hardliners, including Iran's firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.Praising efforts by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to tackle violence, corruption and economic woes, Clinton said she feared his constituents would look to the Islamist movement Hamas if he is unable to show achievements.What I worry about is that the failure to act now when there are changed circumstances... will not just set us back but may irreversibly prevent us from going forward,she said.Clinton was speaking at the dedication of a Center for Middle East Peace named after US entrepreneur Danny Abraham, a longtime advocate for Israeli peace efforts who created the Slim-Fast dieting drink.President Barack Obama's administration has vowed to remain steadfast in US support for Israel but has also pushed to resolve the Middle East conflict, saying it was a vital interest for the United States.

Clinton said that when she was first lady in the 1990s, the Middle East was rarely a top issue on travels to far-flung parts of the world.Now it is the first, second or third item on nearly every agenda of every country I visit,she said.On a visit to Israel last month, Vice President Joe Biden was said to have argued that Middle East peace would help improve the safety of the tens of thousands of US troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq.Biden's trip turned into a fiasco when Israeli officials announced plans to build 1,600 Jewish settlements in annexed east Jerusalem while he was still on the visit. Clinton later called the Israeli move insulting.The Obama administration has come under harsh attack by some of Israel's US supporters, who say that the United States is putting the Jewish state at risk.Representative Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in the House, said the White House has applied a severe double standard that refuses to hold the Palestinians accountable for their many provocations.It makes one wonder where the responsible adults are in the administration,said Cantor, the only Jewish House member from the minority party.

Cantor accused the Obama administration of manufacturing fights with Israel to ingratiate itself with some in the Arab world.By confusing the firefighter with the arsonist we only dilute our moral standing on the world stage,Cantor said. Clinton in her speech also pressed the Arab world, calling on the Palestinian Authority to increase efforts against anti-Israeli incitement and violence and for Arab leaders to do more to reconcile with Israel. She called for action, not just rhetoric on the so-called Arab Peace Initiative in which Arab states agreed in general terms to normalize ties with Israel in return for its withdrawal from Palestinian lands. If the Arab Peace Initiative is indeed the genuine offer it appears to be, we should not face threats by certain Arab states that it will be taken off the table each time there is a setback,Clinton said.

Hamas executes 2 suspected informers for Israel By RIZEK ABDEL JAWAD, Associated Press Writer – Thu Apr 15, 3:41 pm ET

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Hamas government on Thursday executed two men accused of collaborating with Israel, signaling an escalation in the militant Palestinian group's method of controlling the Gaza Strip.It was the first time the death penalty has been carried out in Gaza since Hamas violently seized power in the coastal area in 2007.The bullet-riddled bodies of the men, convicted by military tribunals in 2008 and 2009, were dumped by armed men at Gaza City's main hospital before dawn on Thursday, a hospital employee said. A brother of one of the men said both families were summoned to the prison late Wednesday for a visit but were not told of the pending executions.The killings drew condemnations from human rights groups and were likely to deepen Hamas' international isolation. Human rights groups have criticized the Hamas military tribunals, saying they often rely on confessions obtained through torture.Amnesty International called the military proceedings unfair and said it was gravely concerned about the fate of other Palestinian prisoners held by Hamas.Three more convicted informers remain on death row in Gaza, along with six murderers. Six other men have been sentenced to death in absentia, according to the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights.

In addition, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations accused Hamas gunmen of killing suspected collaborators during the chaos surrounding Israel's Gaza offensive in the winter of 2008-2009.During the war, 17 people were found dead after fleeing a Gaza prison damaged in an Israeli airstrike. Most had been held as suspected collaborators.Palestinian law allows the death penalty for those convicted of collaborating with Israel and other offenses. Technically, execution orders require a signature by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Since taking office in 2005, Abbas has signed such an order once, approving the execution of four convicted murderers in June 2005.Hamas' takeover of Gaza left Abbas' Western-backed government in control only of the West Bank, and Hamas did not ask for or receive Abbas' approval for Thursday's executions.Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for Abbas' government in the West Bank, said Hamas has made many changes to Gaza's legal system since its violent takeover.For us, all its resolutions and activities are illegal and unacceptable,Khatib said, adding that carrying out an execution without Abbas' approval deepens the Palestinian rift.The executions were announced by Ahmed Atallah, the head of Gaza's military court. In a statement on the Hamas Interior Ministry Web site, Atallah said the two defendants had provided information to Israel and helped with attacks on Gaza militants for several years.

Atallah said Mohammed Ismail, 36, was convicted of planting devices in the cars of militants, presumably to help track them. Nasser Abu Freh, 33, a former Palestinian police captain before the Hamas takeover, allegedly started receiving money to work with Israel in 1998.A brother of one of the men said both families were summoned by Hamas police for a prison visit late Wednesday but were not told of the pending executions.He said his family was called back to the prison after daybreak Thursday and was briefly shown the body, covered by a sheet from the nose down. He said the family was not allowed to take the body, but was later informed his brother had been buried in a Gaza cemetery. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety.Israel's Shin Bet security service maintains a network of informers in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Collaborators are often recruited through blackmail, payment or the promise of entry and work permits to Israel.Associated Press Writer Ben Hubbard in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

Syria says Israel may strike after Scud accusation By Khaled Yacoub Oweis – Thu Apr 15, 11:20 am ET

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Israel might be preparing a military strike against Syria by accusing Damascus of supplying Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon with long-range Scud missiles, the Syrian government said on Thursday.Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday accused Syria of sending Hezbollah long-range Scuds. The United States said on Wednesday it was increasingly concerned about the transfer of more sophisticated weaponry to the Syrian and Iranian-backed Islamist group that fought a war with Israel in 2006.Israel aims from this to raise tension further in the region and to create an atmosphere for probable Israeli aggression,the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.The Syrian Arab Republic denies these fabrications.Hezbollah hit Israel with shorter range rockets during the 2006 war as at that time it lacked a longer-ranger missile capability.An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Scuds were smuggled to Hezbollah in the past two months.The United States said the move would have a possible destabilizing effect on the region. The presence of more advanced missiles in Lebanon could raise the prospects of a pre-emptive strike by Israel.Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in February that if Israel struck Beirut's airport, the group would hit Israel's Ben-Gurion airport.While tension between Syria and Israel has increased this year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said last month he remained committed to seeking peace with the Jewish state.

Syrian and Israeli forces last fought each other in Lebanon in the 1980s. A 1974 ceasefire has kept the front between the two quiet on the Golan Heights, which Israeli occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.The two sides held four rounds of indirect peace talks in 2008, only eight months after Israeli planes bombed a target in eastern Syria the United States, Israel's chief ally, said was an illegal nuclear project.Syria said the target was a non-nuclear military installation, and reserved the right to respond in the appropriate time and place.(Editing by Jon Hemming)

Former Jerusalem mayor arrested in bribery scandal By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer – Wed Apr 14, 7:26 pm ET

JERUSALEM – Israeli police arrested a former mayor of Jerusalem on Wednesday in connection with a multimillion-dollar bribery scandal that has been linked to a key confidant of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.The arrest of Uri Lupolianski marks the latest twist in a scandal that has riveted Israel.Last week, a longtime Olmert associate and five others were arrested in the affair, in which huge sums of money allegedly changed hands to promote several real-estate projects, including a large development in Jerusalem that required a radical change in zoning laws.Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem when the bribery allegedly took place, and the construction was done during Lupolianski's tenure.Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Lupolianski was arrested and appeared before a court in central Israel. The court ordered he be held in custody for five days.This is part of the ongoing Holyland investigation, Rosenfeld said, referring to the gigantic Jerusalem housing complex at the center of the affair.

Olmert was forced to resign in 2008 to battle separate corruption charges. Last week, an Israeli court suspended his trial on those charges for four weeks after his lawyers said the former Israeli leader couldn't receive a fair hearing in the current climate.The formal charges against Olmert include fraud and breach of trust. Israel's Justice Ministry has not said what penalties Olmert could face, but the fraud charge alone could carry a prison term of up to five years.The incidents in question, which include illegally accepting funds from an American supporter and double-billing Jewish groups for trips abroad, date from his time as Jerusalem mayor and later as a Cabinet minister, but emerged after he was elected prime minister in 2006.The American supporter, businessman Morris Talansky, said he had given Olmert hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of it in envelopes stuffed with bills.The 63-year-old Olmert returned to Israel from Europe early Thursday and went home without talking to reporters at the airport, Israel Radio reported.Olmert has denied any connection to the latest scandal. In a statement, Olmert's spokesman Amir Dan said Olmert would cut his trip short and return to Israel late Wednesday because of reports that police are interested in questioning him.Olmert's lawyer Eli Zohar has said he does not expect the ex-premier to be arrested when he returns.Olmert has not been implicated directly in the latest case, and there is a partial gag order on it. But local newspapers have identified a senior personality matching Olmert's initials as the official who received the bribes.

Among those arrested in the latest scandal was Uri Messer, a longtime Olmert confidant, whom police suspect acted as a middleman, funneling bribes to a high-ranking city hall official who was not identified.The other suspects arrested were a former city hall official and property developers. Messer was responsible for Olmert's campaign finances, and the two were partners in a law office.