A Lebanese army general was among at least four people killed on Wednesday in a car bomb that also injured seven others in a suburb on the outskirts of Beirut, a security source told AFP. "General Francois El Hajj was killed in the blast and several other people were injured, including his driver," said the source, who did not wish to be identified. The official said Hajj was tipped to replace the army's top commander General Michel Sleiman, who is the frontrunner to become Lebanon's next president but whose election has been blocked by a standoff between the opposition and the ruling majority camps. .. Earlier a Lebanese Red Cross official told AFP that four people were killed and seven were wounded in the morning rush-hour blast that rocked the suburb of Baabda, southeast of Beirut. .. Several officials said Hajj's assassination was linked to the battle at Nahr al-Bared camp. "My first reaction is that this is linked to Nahr al-Bared," said MP Butros Harb, an MP with the ruling Western-backed majority. [Kaum hat Halutz ... A BMW parked car packed with 77 pounds ( 35 Kg) of TNT exploded as his SUV passed, knocking a crater two yards wide and a yard deep into the pavement. = Syria hints at "Israel`s connection" in Lebanese general`s killing (DPA)] + Beddawi camp- Palestinians went on strike in north Lebanon on Tuesday in protest at the slow pace of efforts to restore living conditions in a bombed-out refugee camp, Palestinian officials said. + Interessant: The escalating political crisis in Lebanon over the election of a new president has been imposed on the country by its neighbors Iran and Syria, according to Lebanese defense and strategic analyst, Kassem M. Jafaar. .. The London-based defense analyst and commentator on Middle East affairs was speaking at a conference entitled "Fighting for Democracy in the Islamic World" in the Italian capital, Rome. [Sharansky, der Kämpfer für den islamischen Demokratiestaat.] A leading historian says Europe is to blame for the authoritarianism that exists in Islamic countries. Speaking at an international Islamic conference in Rome, Bernard Lewis said many Muslim countries have adopted a political model imported from Europe in the 19th century. "The authoritarianism present in the Middle East region is not part of the Arab and Muslim tradition, but it has been imported from Europe," said Lewis. ... Paßt: The Syrian authorities are expected to release the final members of a leading human rights group who were recently rounded up. There was no explanation for the detentions on Sunday, the eve of the International Day for Human Rights. About 30 members of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change were detained after a meeting they held in the Syrian capital on Saturday. To read die Neufassung von Mai 2007 click hier.
Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal surprisingly announced his resignation during an interview with Israel Radio, Wednesday afternoon. Plagued in recent months by allegations of corruption, Moyal has in the past suspended himself from duty, but the reason he gave for his resignation Wednesday was the burden of running a town beleaguered by ongoing rocket fire for the past seven years. "This role is too big for any person … I do not want to stay in office until the day 20 children die in Sderot," he told the station. A barrage of at least 15 Qassam rockets struck the western Negev on Wednesday morning. The salvo of rockets struck Sderot and the surrounding area hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to remove the threat of Qassams from Israel's south during a conference in Tel Aviv. Most of the rockets landed in open fields. Five people were lightly wounded by the rockets, including one girl, who was hit by shrapnel. The rest were treated for shock.
The first formal Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years got off to a rocky start Wednesday, with the Palestinians lambasting Israel for a new construction project planned in disputed East Jerusalem, a Palestinian official said. The Palestinians have said that newly announced Israeli plans to build more than 300 apartments in the Har Homa neighborhood threatened to undermine the talks. The Palestinians hope to establish the capital of an independent state in East Jerusalem. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said his delegation introduced the issue of Har Homa and expressed our outrage. "If you want to restore the credibility of the peace process, the Israeli government must revoke this order," he added. Wednesday's talks, which lasted for about 90 minutes, went ahead despite calls by some Palestinians for a boycott over the plans for Har Homa. Palestinian leaders decided to attend the talks but to focus on pressing Israel to freeze settlement building. + The Quartet's Mideast envoy Tony Blair told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Wednesday that he understands Israel's doubts regarding negotiations with the Palestinians, but urged the MKs present to proceed in talks. Regarding the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Blair said he understood that instead of peace, Israel got a "nightmare," which explains the reluctance to push through another unilateral withdrawal in the West Bank. However, he maintained that the Palestinians are even more doubtful regarding chances for peace, and called on Israel to make sincere efforts, despite its doubts. Blair rejected calls for funding first and foremost the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure and economy, saying that there must be simultaneous progress between the diplomatic and economic processes, which he said must be advanced in small steps. Members of the committee were furious when Blair did not answer MK Limor Livnat's question regarding PA President Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The IDF needs to prepare for every option in case the international community doesn't succeed in its attempt to stop Iran's race towards nuclear power, Chief of Staff Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Wednesday. "The international community needs to stop Iran," Ashkenazi said at the Conference on Security Challenges at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, "but us in the IDF need to prepare for every option in case this does not succeed." + "How to Defuse Iran", Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett: IN the wake of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program, Democrats and others are criticizing President Bush for again having “hyped” a nuclear weapons threat. This criticism, while deserved, does not address the critical policy question: What do we do now? Clearly, the United States cannot ignore Iran. Tehran may have suspended the purely weapons-related aspects of its nuclear program, but it continues to master uranium enrichment, with no agreed limits in place. And Iran is well positioned either to facilitate or thwart American objectives in Iraq and across the Middle East. At the same time, the Bush administration’s single-minded insistence on increasing international pressure on Iran seems increasingly detached from reality. Even before the intelligence estimate, there was no set of sanctions with any chance of being endorsed by the Security Council (or even the relatively cooperative European Union) that would have given Washington and its allies real strategic leverage over Iranian decision-making. + Blog-post on Raghida Dergham: "The smell of deals is getting stronger". Orginal-Text.
Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv on security issues, Lieutenant General Ashkenazi said that daily Israeli incursions into the coastal territory were hurting militants but could not be decisive in curbing attacks against Israel. "We are operating in Gaza on a daily basis. [On Tuesday] we returned from a broad operation? this brings a reduction in the ground threat and the firing of rockets but does not stop it," Ashkenazi said. "We will come to the point where we will have to carry out the big operation." Also Wednesday, the security cabinet met to discuss the IDF's actions in the Gaza Strip. Senior security officials told the cabinet that there has been a marked decline in Palestinian support for Hamas in Gaza, due to Israeli sanctions recently imposed on the population of the coastal territory.
Yossi Verter, "What does Labor need this for? And who cares?": Israeli politics is a minefield in which one must tread carefully so as to avoid an explosion, a veteran observer said yesterday. Ehud Barak may once have known how to handle real explosive charges, but the same caution is not evident in his political life. And the media's recent pounding of him is targeting his weakest points - "conduct" and "character." He could have avoided this attack had he proceeded differently. Until this incident things were going well. The party was calm, its convention had exempted him from another showdown on election eve and his only critic was Amir Peretz, who had lost to him, so nobody took the criticism seriously. Yesterday, after the dust from dismissing his strategic adviser Eldad Yaniv seemed to be settling, Eitan Cabel, Labor's secretary-general and Barak's loyal supporter, joined the attack. He was quoted in Ynet as saying "Barak is acting as if he was afraid. I'm ashamed of him."
Neues von sexy Khouloud Daibes: Palestine is a “safe destination” for tourists to visit, envoy to the Quartet Tony Blair said on Tuesday evening. Speaking to journalists at a joint press conference with the Palestinian minister for tourism, Khouloud Daibes, in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, Blair said, “Bethlehem is a safe and good place to come.” + The upcoming Paris donor conference will aid development and reform in Palestine, Palestinian Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes said on Tuesday.
Daibes met with Deputy Director-General of UNESCO Marcio Barbosa in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday. Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO Elias Sunber and the director of the UNESCO office Bashir Al-Amin also attended the meeting. Barbosa expressed his happiness at the resumption of cooperation between the Palestinian government and the international community, saying that UNESCO will support the Palestinians in education and science. However, after he read the draft of the Palestinian development and reform plan, he was disappointed because the education was not given high priority in the plan. The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority aims to raise billions at the Paris meeting, which is scheduled for next week.
Ansonsten? PA verhaftet 13 in Nablus, IDF verhaftet 13 westbankweit + Israeli forces ransacked Palestinian media offices in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday morning, witnesses said. Soldiers seized computers and transmission equipment from the offices of Afaq TV on the pretext that the station supports "terrorism". Nahe Kissufim wird ein Mitglied des Islamic Jihad während eines Angriffs auf den Militärposten dort getötet.