A Qassam rocket struck a western Negev factory Friday, hours after the cabinet declared a "special situation" in Sderot and in other communities bordering the Gaza Strip due to constant Qassam rocket attacks. The Kibbutz Gevim factory, which operates around the clock, sustained damage to the outer wall facing south. None of the employees who were at the factory at the time of the attack were wounded. Friday's vote to declare a "special situation" was carried out over the telephone by Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, and came after Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided Thursday evening to seek government approval for the move. Officials from the Defense Ministry said that the decision will have to go before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in order to go into effect, where it will remain until March 2008. Erst am heutigen Abend wieder eine Qassam-Attacke. At least 300,000 Palestinians rallied in Gaza City on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of Hamas's founding, as deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh promised Hamas would not succumb to international pressure. The central square in Gaza City was awash with green flags and dozens of armed, masked men from the group's military wing patrolled. Some estimates put the crowd as high as 500,000. .. Also Saturday, Hamas said Palestinian security forces loyal to Abbas had arrested 26 of its supporters in the West Bank. "The Palestinian security forces continued the detention campaign that targets Hamas supporters in various cities in the West Bank," Hamas said in a statement faxed to the press. The statement added that most of the detainees were arrested in the town of Qalqilya. + "Sealed of by Israel, Gaza reduced to beggary" by Scott Wilson. + nochmalig: The Hamas police in Gaza on Friday arrested an aide to the Ramallah-based Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, and held the aide for questioning, a Hamas spokesman said.
The United States will pledge about $500 million for the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank when Arab, European and other nations meet next week, US officials said Friday. The money would go toward a goal of $5.6 billion that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair hopes to raise to rescue the tattered Palestinian economy and reinforce institutions that would become the backbone of any eventual independent Palestinian state. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will deliver the pledge at a conference Blair has called Monday in Paris, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the figure has not been announced and might be changed slightly. .. Paris - Ma'an Exclusive - The Paris donors' conference, which aims to bring in financial support for the Palestinian territories, begins on Monday 17 December.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter criticized the new United States intelligence assessment on Iran's nuclear program, saying it could lead to a disastrous miscalculation similar to Israel's failure to anticipate Egypt and Syria's surprise invasion in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. During a town hall meeting in Holon on Saturday, Dichter called the National Intelligence Estimate an "American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons, which is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur [War] where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened." Regarding the Palestinians, Dichter warned that retired US general James Jones, who heads the mechanism to judge the implementation of road map obligations, is likely to get an inaccurate picture and that there were no guarantees he would not make a serious error of judgment regarding the Palestinians' commitments.
Thanassis Cambanis, "Challenged, Syria extends crackdown on dissidents": Syrian authorities this week arrested more than 30 people who had been working for political change, escalating a crackdown on dissent just a week after critics elected a leadership committee in an unusually direct and public challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s authority. A majority of those arrested were questioned and released, dissidents and human rights advocates said. But three of the most outspoken opposition leaders remained in custody on Thursday, and others had been summoned for questioning.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday urged all sides in Lebanon to grab a "last chance" next week to finally elect a president after a series of postponements, warning that any country which intervened to prevent a deal would be isolated on the international stage. "Monday is the day of the last chance. France appeals to all parties, internally and externally, to work so that Lebanon can get a president of unity and consensus," Sarkozy told a news conference following a European Union summit.
Walid Choucair, "The game of delegation and recanting in Lebanon": Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri returned the conflict in Lebanon to its regional arena once again. When he decided to recant on the agreement that he had reached with the leader of the Mustakbal Movement, Saad Hariri on Friday December 7, he did so because he discovered that this agreement did not have the adequate regional coverage, especially from Syria. In particular, the agreement involved amending the constitution to allow for the election of Army Commander General Michel Sleiman to the presidency without bypassing Prime Minister Siniora's government which would play its constitutional role in passing the amendment.
Raghida Dergham, "Who's Responsible for the International "Retreat" in Support for Lebanon's Path of Independence?": US President George W Bush is politically and morally responsible toward a small country called Lebanon because he took the initiative to make statement after statement in which he pledged support for this country's path toward independence and democracy and its standing up to extremism and plans to turn it into a base for Syria or Iran. Bush then let this country down with his frightening silence, which told those who had relied on his commitments that he was now unable to do anything. The same goes for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who pledged his love and loyalty to the US and received Bush's permission to manage the Lebanon "issue." He now has a duty to explain what he and his team did when they decided to return Syrian influence to Lebanon, in a French piece of acrobatics that was astonishing in its ignorance and arrogance. Of course, the US administration and the French government aren't directly responsible for every new political assassination of a government official, journalist or prominent officer in the Lebanese Army. However, they aren't exempt from some responsibility for leaving the impression that it has now become possible to escape punishment for the political assassinations and that all possibilities are open to deal-making. It's true that Lebanon will be the direct price for the US political decision to abandon it, for reasons that appear to involve Iran and its role in Iraq, and Syria in its relationship with Israel. However, Lebanon will not pay the price alone. America will also pay an expensive price in allowing the Iranian regime to dominate Iraq and Lebanon and giving in to the forces of terror, intimidation, political assassinations and sabotage.
Caellum Moffat, "The viable Two-State-Solution?": Following the summit in Annapolis, Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud opposition party in Israel declared in reference to the Israeli / Palestinian peace process, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. Although his statement may attract complete bemusement from Palestinian sympathizes who wonder how one so influential in politics could be so audacious in denying such blatant illegal actions and atrocities inflicted daily on the Palestinians as a result of Israeli occupation, his comments don’t seem to have attracted one vicious rebuttal or even fazed anyone on the domestic front. The Likud leader is the overwhelming favorite to resume his old post as Israeli Prime Minister. As it stands, Netanyahu [34%] leads Defense Minister Ehud Barak [17%] and current Prime Minster Ehud Olmert [14%]. Therefore, his words are not unsubstantiated rants but should be taken seriously, as he reflects the popular public opinion in Israel.