*** Gaza-Konflikt: In Gaza-Stadt kommt es zu Stromausfällen in mehreren Tausend Haushalten und medizinischen Einrichtungen. Von israelischer Seite werden technische Probleme als Ursache angegeben. In Rafah werden bei einer nicht näher geklärten Explosion zwei Kinder verletzt. Die Al-Mujahidin Brigades [eine islamistische Abspaltung der Fatah] will mit israelischen Einheiten Hojr ad Dik kollidiert sein und kündigt ein 40-minütiges Video von der Schießerei an. In England sorgen die "Independent Jewish Voices" mit einer Kampagne für Schlagzeilen, die eine Beendigung der Gaza-Blockade fordert. Die ägyptische Zeitung al-Ahram bietet ein 4-Autoren-Special auf um die Lage zu analysieren: The borders between Egypt and Gaza are gradually but surely being resealed by Egyptian authorities and with the consent, even if reluctant, of Hamas, the de facto ruler of Gaza. After close to nine days of unchecked inundation of close to 700,000 of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza into the border city of Rafah and its immediate neighbour Arish, quiet is again in place. And within the next 48 to 72 hours, Egyptian officials predict, the whole border would have been cordoned off again. However, what is unlikely to be in place again is the full siege that Israel has aimed -- against little if any world protest -- to squeeze Gaza through. While American and Israeli officials have been demanding that Egypt simply seals its borders and leaves Gaza to its fate, Egyptian officials say they know for fact that it has become practically impossible to retain the closed- crossing policy that Egypt adopted, in line with international rules of operation for the Rafah crossing point that demand the presence of observers and borders guards from the European Union and the Palestinian Authority -- who had left Gaza since the Hamas takeover last June. "The Israelis and Americans can say all they want. But they know that Egypt has to act upon its interests," commented an Egyptian official who asked for anonymity. And, he explained, it is certainly not in the interest of Egypt to ignore the fact that if the Rafah crossing point was to be completely sealed off again under continued Israeli siege on Gaza another breach will occur. "It will be a matter of time before the Palestinians break into Rafah again. This is a scenario we dread so much. We would rather work to secure a prompt and internationally accepted mechanism for the operation of the Rafah crossing point," the official added. For Egypt to secure a prompt and legal operation of the borders it would need to either secure the consent of Hamas for the re-instatement of the borders agreement suspended by the Hamas control of Gaza or alternatively to introduce a new agreement acceptable to both sides and passable by Israel and the international community. Either scenarios, however, would require a Hamas-Fatah agreement, if not full reconciliation. [...] Speaking to reporters in Cairo on Wednesday following a 60- minute meeting with President Mubarak, Abbas announced no break through on Palestinian national reconciliation. He rather seemed inexplicably arrogant and firm in his rejection of Egyptian efforts to by-pass his demand of Hamas to "give Gaza back" before the beginning of any reconciliation dialogue. Indeed, Abbas was not short on harsh loaded criticism on Hamas and was not covert in his incitement of Egypt against the Islamist militant Palestinian faction whose leaders in Gaza were expected to arrive in Cairo late Wednesday for talks with Egyptian officials on possible scenarios of handling the Israeli siege, the Palestinian dialogue and on finding "new" ways to operate the Rafah crossing point and the intractable relationship between Gaza and Egypt. Egyptian officials were alerted by Abbas that he has "no intention" of meeting up with the visiting leaders of Hamas coming from Gaza or for that matter for Hamas Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshaal who is arriving today from the Syrian capital. These officials say that they are not unaware, nor unappreciative, of Abbas's resentment of Hamas. However, they hasten to add, that in view of his inability to weaken Hamas, Abbas needs to learn how to live with Hamas. The least Abbas could do, they say, is to talk directly or indirectly with his Islamist political rivals on ways to manage daily concerns -- the Rafah crossing point on top.
*** Westbank: Five Palestinians were injured by Israeli army gunfire in the West Bank town of Beit Ummar on Friday during clashes at the funeral procession of two Palestinians killed last week in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Etzion, south of Bethlehem.
*** Region: Während sich die amerikanische Aussenministerin zu neuen Taten gegen den Iran bereit zeigt, diskutiert David Schenker "Setbacks in Arab League Mediation on Lebanon" und David Makovsky "Winograd II: Implications for the US-Israel relations", während Elias Harfouche Empfehlungen an den französischen Aussenminister hat: Syrian minister Walid al-Muallim was not joking when he suggested that his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner "study more" before he could comprehend Syria's strategy. Many besides Kouchner are incapable of understanding this strategy, and consequently they must go back to school!
*** Israelische Araber: Die Lage der Frauen: Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry researchers announced this week that just 22 percent of Arab women in Israel participate in the workforce. In contrast, 71 percent of Jewish women participate in the workforce. The researchers also found that 51 percent make minimum wage or less and their salaries average 47 percent of their Jewish counterparts' wages. This average also includes teachers salaries, without which the gap would be substantially larger. The research also indicated unemployment among Arab women stood at 17 percent, compared to 8 percent among Jewish women. Eighteen percent of Arab women in part-time employment seek to increase the scope of their jobs, compared to 7.5 percent of Jewish women. According to Trade Ministry official Benny Pfefferman, about one quarter of the Arab women not participating in the workforce hold high-school diplomas or college degrees. Die Lage der Männer: More than 20,000 people marched Friday afternoon in the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin, protesting Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's decision earlier this week not to seek the indictments of police officers involved in the deaths of 13 Arab civilians during the riots of October 2000.
*** Syria: Tagesspiegel-Porträt Riad Seif. + Die Zeit: Steinmeier mischt sich ein.