*** Gazastreifen: Nach mittlerweile einhelligen Berichten wurden gestern drei Zivilisten in An-Nizar, Beit Hanoun durch israelsichen Artilleriebeschuß getötet. Die PFLP berichtet einer der Männer sei ein Mitglied von ihr gewesen. Die Picknick-Variante wird mit "im Haus nach dem Abendessen getroffen" ersetzt. Am Samstag Abend wird auch die Zone Ash-Shua'yya vor Gaza City mit Artillerie beschossen. Ein Leichtverletzter. Die "Qassam-Dichte" bleibt niedrig, drei Projektile am Morgen, ohne Treffer. Am Karni-Crossing soll es eine Schießerei gegeben haben in deren Verlauf palästinensische Milizionäre getroffen worden wären. Eine Bestätigung steht aus. Die Versorgungslage: Gasoline ran out in Gaza over the weekend in the aftermath of limitations imposed by Israel on imports into the Strip, excluding fuel for emergency vehicles. Diesel fuel is also said to be in short supply. Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces beefed up troops along the border with Gaza, fearing thousands of Palestinians may march on the border in protest of Israel's economic sanctions. Israel fears that crowds of Palestinians might rush the border, and that large numbers of casualties will result from the army's attempts to stop them. [...] The IDF deployed a number of battalions near the fence in the northern Strip to prepare for possible Palestinian attempts to breach the border. The IDF Gaza Brigade has been conducting exercises simulating mass civilian marches, outfitting the soldiers with riot-control gear. The army is concerned that Palestinians may try to take over crossings on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, and that Hamas intends to march them into a Jewish community near Gaza. [Es kann auch einen anderen Grund für die Aufstellung der Uniformen geben...] The cabinet approved Sunday a 327-million-shekel investment for the fortification of Sderot and Gaza belt homes. During his speech at the start of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that "by 2010, it will be possible to provide a fitting response to Kassams in a multi-layered system that includes fortification, the Iron Dome interception system and an early-warning mechanism."
*** Westbank: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opened an investigation into the death of a Hamas preacher who the Islamist group said was tortured by Fatah security services, officials said on Saturday. Hamas Islamists have accused security agents from Abbas's more secular Fatah faction of torturing to death imam Majd al-Barghouthi, a local Hamas leader in the West Bank city of Ramallah, near Jerusalem. Abbas's security force said on Friday that Barghouthi had died of a stroke. The 45-year-old father of nine had been detained for a week before his death. [...] Ärger gibt es auch mit einem selbsternannten Kandidaten für die Nachfolge von Mahmoud Abbas. Nachdem "interessierte Quellen" den Austritt von Farouk Qaddoumi aus der Fatah-Bewegung lancierten weist dieser in der Zeitung al-Quds al-Arabi zurück. [Hinergrund: Fatah's much-heralded, long-awaited and long-delayed sixth General Conference, slated for March, has fallen victim to Fatah's chronic internal contradictions. According to insiders in the movement's higher echelons, the conference has been postponed "until further notice". In Fatah-speak, this probably means "never". Many of Fatah's younger leaders and activists had hoped and probably still hope that the organisation of the conference would provide a rare opportunity to put Fatah's house in order and introduce badly-needed democratic reforms to a movement that is increasingly suffering from a host of ailments, including corruption, rampant factionalism and demoralisation.] Während aus verschiedenen Westbankstädten die üblichen Verhaftungsaktionen gemeldet werden südlich von Hebron für die Siedlung Eshkolot [knapp im Bereich der Mauer] palästinensische Privatgrundstücke konfisziert. [...] Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has seen signs of "slow progress" in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and hopes an agreement can be reached this year, Egypt's state news agency said on Saturday. "There are indications of slow progress between the two negotiating teams, but follow-up -- especially from the American side -- is important and necessary to overcome the difficulties facing the talks," Mubarak said in remarks carried on state news agency MENA. [...] Shooting Palestinian bystanders; illegally commandeering cars and going on joyrides; torturing a youth by pressing a heater to his face and beating cuffed prisoners on their way to custody. These are only some of the reported cases of abuse for which Israel Defense Forces soldiers serving in the West Bank are currently on trial. "We've been hit by a tsunami," said the commander of the Kfir Brigade, members of which were recently implicated in a rampage through a West Bank town that left two Palestinians wounded, one of them seriously. Kfir is the largest IDF unit in the West Bank. "I suppose every brigade goes through low and high periods, and right now we're in a low one."
The Foreign Ministry has begun a strategic overhaul of relations with the EU and its member nations, increasingly "plugging into" EU institutions and, in turn, allowing Europe to play a greater role in Israeli diplomatic and economic processes, The Jerusalem Post has learned. So central has Europe become to Israel's well-being, diplomatic officials have told the Post, that the Foreign Ministry believes it is time to reassess the Jewish state's traditional reliance on "two pillars" for Israeli survival: a strong IDF and an unbreakable alliance with America. Given the growing importance of the European Union in world events, and in the Middle East particularly, the officials said, a third pillar has become necessary: deepening ties to Europe. "Increasingly, Europe is involved in everything that touches us: trade, the Palestinians, Iran, UNIFIL in Lebanon," said a senior Israeli diplomatic source. "They are in the [Middle East] Quartet, and central in many other areas. Developing a strong relationship with Europe is becoming the third pillar safeguarding Israel's survival." [...] On midday Wednesday, minutes after it was reported that Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo had threatened to follow Kosovo's example and unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state if the talks with Israel stalled, chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) was on the phone to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Abed Rabbo, he told her, was fantasizing, adding that an official denial was on the way. Livni did not seem concerned. What was worrying her was the possibility that her talks with Abu Ala might not lead to a Palestinian state. In effect, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) long since declared an independent state conforming to the 1967 boundaries. This November will mark the 20th anniversary of the unborn state. The declaration was issued in 1988 at a meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers, which also recognized a Jewish state existing alongside the Palestinian state. Now it appears that if, as Abed Rabbo warned, the negotiations will reach an impasse at the end of the year, that declaration will end up on the trash heap of history. [...] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is to leave Sunday on a four-day trip to Japan, with an eye to boosting bilateral trade. [...] Gideon Levy, "Jerusalem First": One could not believe in the negotiations Israel is conducting with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank; one may also believe that the parties want to succeed, but cannot. One also may think that talks cannot proceed without the elected representation of the Palestinian people, who chose Hamas. There are also no negotiations without Gaza. And now, after we have properly frowned on all these negotiations, we may also decide that for the moment, that's all there is: Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni on one side and Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat on the other - with all their weaknesses.
Lieberman to Zahalka: We'll make sure you end up where you deserve. Disagreement between Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, Balad leader regarding integration of Israeli Arabs in National Service turns ugly as former calls Arab MKs 'a fifth column; latter replies with 'shut up, fascist'.
Haaretz-Editorial: It is no longer relevant what the legal and political philosophy of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann is, or whether his proposals may improve the legal system. No reform can offset the damage Friedmann causes the legal system every time he opens his mouth. There could have been a legitimate public debate on fundamentals had Friedmann opted to talk instead of incite, to criticize instead of smear; had he shown respect toward Supreme Court President 0Dorit Beinisch instead of besmirching her to a near criminal degree, while constantly criticizing her for defending herself against his endless accusations through meetings with the press and MKs.