Defense Minister Ehud Barak came under fire Sunday from the opposition as well as members of his own party, after announcing that he intends to remain in the government despite his campaign promise to resign in the wake of the Winograd Committee's final report on the Second Lebanon War. "I am aware of the challenges Israel faces - Gaza, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, and rehabilitating the army," Barak told reporters ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting. "The Winograd report was harsh, and it has implications and complicated conclusions regarding both individuals and ethical issues. I intend to address these conclusions when the time is right, and set a date for elections." Barak said he had not forgotten his pledge during Labor Party primaries last year, but that the "situation today is different." [...] Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel expressed disappointment with Barak's comments, telling Army Radio, "The Winograd findings are harsh, and we must continue to take an ethical stance, despite the good reasons we have to stay in the government." [...] Cabel was not the only party official to express dissatisfaction with the move, with Labor's young guard vowing to fight the decision. "We can't fool all the people all the time," said the young guard's chairman, Eran Hermoni. "The Labor Party is committing suicide. This is not the new political message that the young generation was expecting." [...] The Likud added its voice to the condemnation of Barak's decision, saying "as expected Barak is hiding from his commitment behind the excuse of what is best for the country is more important than what is best for him, and has lent a hand to a leadership that the Winograd report, and the public, has judged to be a failure." [...] Despite polls showing improvement in Olmert's standing, the protest movement continues to call for him to resign, and for Barak to make good on his promise to quit the coalition. The leaders of the reservists' protest movement issued a statement assailing Barak's decision, saying "politics have defeated the state." "We are witnessing the pact of the failures, the pact of the cynics who are greedy for personal survival," said the statement. Kommentar Zvi Bar'el, "Since he does not intend to resign".
Egyptian troops closed the last breach in Egypt's frontier with the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, witnesses and Hamas security officials said, bringing to an end a week and a half of free movement for Gazans. The troops were allowing Gazans and Egyptians who remained on the wrong side of the border to cross back, the witnesses and officials said, but had stopped allowing any new cross-border movement. Egyptian soldiers patrolled in armored personnel carriers and stood in sandbagged emplacements on nearby rooftops, and dozens of Gazans looked on as the Egyptians resealed the border, the Hamas security officials said. No violence was reported. [...] Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon said on Sunday that Israel considers imposing a complete ban on exporting Gaza agricultural produce via Israel. [...] In talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo last week, Hamas officials proposed a broadening of the ties between the Hamas-ruled Strip and Egypt. During the talks Hamas officials asked that Egypt provide the Strip with the essential supplies it currently receives through Israel. Senior Hamas sources told Haaretz this would include fuel, food, construction materials and a far larger share of its electricity. Egypt currently supplies about 17 megawatts. The Hamas officials made it clear during their talks with Omer Suleiman, Egypt's chief of intelligence, they did not expect this supply line to be humanitarian assistance but commercial deliveries for which they would pay. The same Hamas sources said the Egyptians did not reject the proposal and promised to consider the option. According to Hamas estimates, this could be worth $30 million a month to Egypt. However, senior Fatah officials in Ramallah said that Egypt would be hard put to accept the Hamas proposal because of the opposition of the Palestinian Authority and the United States. Hamas Prime Minister in the Strip Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that economic ties with Egypt must be strengthened to break free from Israel. "Since the day we were elected [Palestinian national elections February 2006] we have said that we want to progress toward breaking our economic ties with Israel," he said. He stressed that "Egypt is in a much better position [than Israel] to meet the needs of the Gaza Strip." A senior political source in Jerusalem welcomed the proposal Saturday. "This is excellent," the source said. "It is what Israel has desired for years, and it is only good for us." "If Egypt agrees to the process, Israel will give it its blessing," the source added. [...] Bericht von Catrin Ormestad, "For all the excitement, very little has changed in the Gaza Strip". Ungeklärt ist weiterhin die Zukunft von etwa 5000 Palästinensern die über Ägypten aus dem Gazastreifen ausreisen wollen. [...] Daniel Levy, "What Next for Gaza?" - Last week's border destruction granted a period of grace for Gaza, but it has also shown the holes in Israeli, Egyptian, United States, and Palestinian Authority policies.
In Huwwara nahe Nablus wird ein 38-jähriger Palästinenser der eben seinen Sohn zur Schule fahren wollte durch einen unidentifizierten Schützen getötet. Es wird der Hintergund eines Familiensdisputs vermutet. Nach Angaben der Al-Aqsa-Brigaden wird in Jenin am Freitag der Versuch einer Verhaftung des Brigaden-"Generals" Abu Uday Al-Mansour durch dessen Flucht verhindert. Der Islamic Jihad greift die israelische Stadt Sderot mit zwei Qassam-Raketen am Samstag, die PFLP am Sonntag mit 4 Raketen an. Vier Mitglieder der Hamas werden durch die Fatah, drei nicht fraktionell zugeordnete und ein PFLP-Mitglied werden durch die Israelis verhaftet. In al-Khadr in der Westbank werden drei jugendliche Steinewerfer durch israelische Gummigeschosse verletzt.
Die ramallahnische "Demokratie" kündigt aus den Luxusunterkünften sehr populäre Schritte aus den gegen die Veruntreuung von Geldern durch gewissenlose Gesellen und antipatriotische Gewerkschaftler an: Palestinian Foreign Minister and government spokesperson Riyad Al-Malki says the Palestinian Authority (PA) will not back away from a new rule that requires Palestinians to pay old utility bills before they can be issued government documents. Speaking with Ma'an by phone from the Jordanian capital, Amman, he said the PA wants to achieve three things with the rule, which is called "clearance".: "First: we want to recover the amount of 500 million dollars that are lost annually due to lack of commitment by the citizens to pay dues. "Second: we want to recover from the culture of non-payment and make citizens get used to paying their dues. Third: we want to achieve equality and justice among all citizens who pay and those who do not pay … We can not make one citizen pay the bill of water and electricity and others not to pay." Al-Maliki said the PA would not resort to garnishing Palestinians' wages to extract the cost of utility bills. Asked about the trade unions who are striking in protest of the rule, he said, "We in the government encourage union work as a present, but must not use union work this way and resort to strike as a first step." He criticized "trade unionists and some who described the government move as an occupation … They will be brought to the public prosecution for investigations on such serious statements, which did not indicate any sense of patriotism." + Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a failed leader who is incapable of taking the right decision at the right time, a senior Fatah official said over the weekend. Abu Ali Shaheen, a veteran member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and a former PA minister, accused Abbas and the political leadership of Fatah of abandoning their men during the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip last June.
The officer in charge of an army unit that shot a Palestinian without justification last July was sentenced last week to 15 months in prison and a demotion. Lieutenant Ya'akov Gigi's sentence was the result of an agreement between his attorneys and the Military Advocate General (MAG). However, it is not yet clear whether he will be demoted to sergeant, as his attorneys requested, or to private, as MAG wanted.
Nach anderen Angaben sollen es sogar sechs mehr sein: A Lebanese judge ordered on Saturday the arrest of three army officers and eight soldiers over the killing of opposition protesters a week ago in some of Beirut's deadliest street violence since the 1975-90 civil war. Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah, a powerful group backed by Syria and Iran, had said the army mishandled Sunday's incident which occurred after troops opened fire to break up a protest in south Beirut over power cuts, and demanded a swift inquiry. Seven supporters of Hezbollah and a Shi'ite ally were killed and some 30 protesters were wounded in the violence, the worst since pro-government supporters and opposition followers clashed in Beirut a year ago.
Region+ C.J. Chivers, "US policy shifts in Central Asia": Late in the afternoon of Jan. 24, a U.S. military plane landed in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, carrying Admiral William Fallon, the commander of the U.S. Central Command. Fallon, who oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had arrived for an introductory meeting with the Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, one of the post-Soviet world's durable strongmen. Relations with the United States have been largely frozen since 2005, when Uzbekistan, bristling under U.S. censure for a bloody crackdown against anti-government demonstrators, evicted the Pentagon from an air base that had been used to support the war in Afghanistan. Fallon said he had no grand plan for Uzbekistan. He was not seeking restored access to the air base or even rights for military planes to fly through Uzbek airspace. His visit, he said by telephone, marked a renewal of dialogue and the possibility of a thaw. [...] Helena Cobban, "Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan: Bushism in disarray" - The past few weeks have not been good ones for the Bush administration's project of establishing firm, pro-western beach-heads in a broad swathe of western Asia from Gaza to Afghanistan. Afghanistan, which since late 2001 has been ruled by the US-installed and heavily US-dependent Hamid Karzai, is probably the country where the situation seems most dire-- for both the pro-Washington political order and the Afghan citizens themselves.