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Today's News

April 24, 2014


Hamas, Abbas' PLO Announce Reconciliation Agreement

 By VOA News &


The Gaza-based terrorist Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas' Palestine Liberation Organization agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact, both sides announced in a joint news conference. The move, coming after a long line of failed efforts to reconcile after seven years of internal bickering, envisions a unity government within five weeks and national elections six months later.


"This is the good news we tell our people: the era of division is over," Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said to loud applause at a Palestinian press conference also attended by representatives of the PLO.


Israel said after the announcement that Abbas had chosen Hamas over peace, and cancelled a session of U.S.-brokered talks with the Palestinians that had been scheduled for Wednesday night in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office that Abbas "chose Hamas and not peace.  Whoever chooses Hamas does not want peace." Israeli Channel 2 TV said Netanyahu would convene an emergency session of his security cabinet on Thursday to discuss his response.


Along with the United States and the European Union, Israel views Hamas as a terrorist organization, and says Abbas' efforts to unify with the group show he is not serious about extending the troubled negotiations. The talks, aimed at ending its decades-old conflict with the Palestinians and establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, are scheduled to end on April 29.


Palestinians have long hoped for a healing of the political rift between the PLO and  terror-oriented Hamas, which won a Palestinian election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Western-backed Abbas in 2007.


But reconciliation dreams have been dashed repeatedly in the past. Since 2011, Hamas and Fatah have failed to implement an Egyptian-brokered unity deal because of disputes over power-sharing and the handling of the conflict with Israel.


Hamas has battled Israel, which it refuses to recognize, while Abbas' Fatah party has remained in control of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and pursued years of fruitless talks with Israel.


Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the unity pact would not interfere with peace efforts. "There's no contradiction at all between unity and talks, and we're committed to establishing a just peace based on a two-state solution," he said in a statement following the deal.


 Egypt's foreign minister Nabil Fahmy welcomed the deal, saying in a statement he hoped it would "support the Palestinian position in the peace talks." Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah congratulated the Hamas prime minister, a TV channel run by the group said.


The approval of the two influential Arab states, which have been at loggerheads over the role of the Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is an offshoot, implied the agreement had backing from the region as a whole. The deal could give Abbas a measure of sovereignty in Gaza and help Hamas, hemmed in by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, become less isolated.


But Gaza analyst Talal Okal noted that previous unity agreements signed with great fanfare had amounted to nothing, and the future of this deal may depend on whether the sides agree to extend U.S.-brokered peace talks. "Will it materialize or not? Let's wait for April 29. What will happen if negotiations are extended?" Okal said.


Minutes after the announcement, Israel launched an air strike on northern Gaza, wounding 12 people, including several small children, local medical officials said. The Israeli military said in a statement it had carried out a "counter-terrorism operation in the northern Gaza Strip," and that it had not identified a hit, suggesting it may have missed its target.


U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry revived the peace talks in July after a nearly three-year hiatus. The negotiations stalled this month when Israel refused to carry out the last of four waves of prisoner releases unless it received assurances the Palestinian leadership would continue the talks beyond the end of April.


After Israel failed to free the prisoners, Abbas responded by signing 15 international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations. Israel condemned the move as a unilateral step toward statehood.


Netanyahu announced Wednesday night that Israel is breaking off peace talks with the Palestinians. The United States informed Abbas that if Hamas and Jihad Islami, both listed as terrorist organizations, were co-opted to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Washington would discontinue its annual recognition of the PLO.


Yet Netanyahu did nothing to prevent a Fatah delegation traveling from Ramallah to Gaza City through Israel. Neither did he follow through on his threat of sanctions against high-ranking Palestinian officials for their unilateral application to UN bodies in violation of their pledges to Israel and their peace broker, US Secretary of State John Kerry. Application of the travel sanction, for instance, would have stopped Assam al Ahmad from reaching Gaza City.


These questions, put by DEBKAfile, betray the ridiculous state of the current Middle East peace process and the muddled, illogical steps pursued by Abbas, who seems to be firing frenziedly in all directions.


Two months ago, after posting Palestinian membership applications to 15 UN bodies, Abbas sent one of his trusties, Jibril Rajoub, to Tehran to start a dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and Iran. He came back with a fresh assortment of gems: “If the Palestinians had a nuclear bomb they would drop it on Israel,” he remarked, and “Hitler could have taken lessons from Israel on how to build concentration camps.”


Yet he continued to travel around Israel on a VIP pass and was invited to speak on Israeli television and radio where he disseminated a message of moderation and tolerance in the name of his master.

On Tuesday, Abbas invited Israel reporters to his office in Ramallah to lay down new conditions for extending negotiations for three months beyond the April 29 deadline, although by then his representatives were on their way to Gaza City.


One condition was to devote all future discussions to the question of borders. He also announced that he was ready to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and hand the keys over to Israel, a threat which soon proved to be unfeasible.


No one in Jerusalem or Washington can figure out what Abbas wants. And even his closest aides believe that he doesn’t know his own mind and are afraid of what he may dream up next. In Gaza City, meanwhile, his Fatah and the rival Hamas celebrated their umpteenth unity pact in nine years, although not a single clause of any of the foregoing documents was ever implemented.


This one is different in one critical sense. Leaving aside its deleterious impact on the peace process with Israel, it means that Abbas has publicly allied himself and his party with the fundamentalist Hamas, whose Gaza domain is under Egyptian army siege for abetting and hiding fugitive Muslim Brotherhood activists. Gaza’s Hamas rulers have granted the Brothers a base for running terrorist networks in Cairo and other Egyptian cities.


As an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is also condemned as a foe by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. How to explain the logic of  Abbas’ resort to such dangerous lengths to avoid peace talks with Israel by placing the entire Palestinian movement in opposition to the leading Arab governments?



Suspected Organ Trafficking Ring Uncovered in Negev

 By Israel Hayom


An alleged organ trafficking ring targeting young women has been uncovered in southern Israel, the Israel Police revealed, after a gag order placed on the investigation was lifted. The prime suspect, described as a Negev resident in his 40s, and two of his alleged accomplices are believed to have fled Israel, and the investigation is being conducted with assistance from Interpol.


According to the available details, two women between the ages of 18 and 20 from southern Israel sold their kidneys for tens of thousands of shekels, while the recipients of the organs paid the network of liaisons and doctors involved hundreds of thousands of shekels.


The investigation began in March, after the parents of an 18-year-old woman filed a missing persons report with the Be'er Sheva Police. After police questioned several of her friends, they learned that she was on her way to Turkey to sell one of her kidneys. The investigation was then transferred to the Negev Central Police Unit.


The woman returned to Israel three days later and was questioned by the police. She told investigators that she flew to Turkey to donate her kidney but had eventually decided not follow through with it. During the police questioning the woman mentioned that one of her friends had already had her kidney removed and was about to return to Israel.


The friend was detained upon her return to Israel. She told police that she donated her kidney to a woman in her 50s from central Israel, whom she had met a year and a half ago. "Her story really moved me, I felt really bad for her and decided to give without asking for anything in return," the girl said. She later expressed remorse and said she realized she had made a mistake. "I spoke with people involved with the donation, and they told me the woman to whom I donated my kidney paid for it, but I did not get any payment."


The woman who received the kidney was also questioned by the police. She told investigators that she did indeed receive the kidney itself for free, and paid the hospital in Turkey 300,000 shekels ($86,000). The woman and others who were questioned in the case all named a doctor in central Israel who allegedly conducted the medical tests required for the donors before the organ transplant. The doctor was interrogated and identified the prime suspect as the one who had sent him the patients.


Police believe that other young women from financially struggling families sold their organs as well. Israel Police Negev District Commander Brig. Gen. Omer Peretz said some changed their minds before undergoing the procedure. Peretz said the organ transplant ring would seek out young women in financial straits and would offer them tens of thousands of shekels to donate their organs.


Police Superintendent Mazal Esterkahn, who is heading the investigation, said the police were trying to deduce whether the ring operated in Israel alone or was part of an international network.


Spanish Town with 'Kill Jews' in Name Mulls Change

By Israel Hayom


Castrillo Matajudios, a tiny Spanish village of 56 residents, has as its second word  "Kill Jews." An referendum takes place May 25 to decide if that name should be changed. The mayor, Lorenzo Rodriguez Perez, said that the name offends outsiders and embarrasses some residents.


Historical studies show the town's original name was Castrillo Motajudios, the second word of which translates to "Jews' Hill." The name dates back to 1035, when 66 Jews were killed in a nearby town and the remainder were expelled and settled on the hill.


The earliest records found with the name changed to "Kill Jews" is from 1627, more than a century after the 1492 edict by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that required Jews to leave the country, convert to Catholicism or face being burned at the stake during the Spanish Inquisition.


Although Jews were killed in the area, researchers believe the town received its current name from Jewish residents who converted to Catholicism and wanted to convince Spaniards they opposed Jews, Rodriguez said. Others think it might have simply come from a slip of the pen.


"There are always the stories of people from here traveling to Israel with a passport that says Matajudios and wishing they didn't have to show it," Rodriguez said.


No Jews live in the town, but Rodriguez said many residents have ancient Jewish roots. The town's official shield includes the Star of David. Spain's government earlier this year apologized to Jews by offering citizenship to descendants of those who were forced to flee in the 15th century.


Spoon-Bending Psychic Geller Helps Israelis Defy Disasters

 By Reuters


 Celebrity psychic Uri Geller is the beaming new face of Israeli disaster-readiness, starring in army-sponsored TV and Internet advertisements on how to take shelter from missile attacks or earthquakes.


Launched on Wednesday, the campaign marks Geller's return to his native country from Britain and aims to keep Israelis vigilant, though public fears of any imminent war with Iran, Syria or Lebanese and Palestinian guerrillas have receded. "I decided to do something else, to save lives and help emergency preparations in Israel, which my family and I are making our home base after 43 years abroad," Geller told Reuters.


The 67-year-old entertainer was born in Tel Aviv, served in the Israeli Army's Paratroopers Brigade and was wounded in action during the 1967 Six-Day War. He is best known internationally for mental tricks such as bending spoons and stopping watches.


In the ads, Israelis are invited to submit their location at the military's Home Front Command website, where pre-recordings of Geller will "telepathically" inform them where and how quickly to seek cover if air-raid sirens sound. Such shelters are also meant to provide protection in the event of earthquakes.




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 Paradise Regained, Paradise Lost

By Don Canaan (Commentary)

This year marked the 29th anniversary of the return of the Sinai by Israel to Egypt--a day of mourning by many of the 2,000 settlers who settled and later were forcibly evacuated by Israeli authorities under the command of Ariel Sharon, from the seaside city of Yamit on the Mediterranean.

Yamit was former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's dream--a projected seaport and city of 250,000 founded on the Sinai sand dunes overlooking date palm trees and the blue Mediterranean--a populated buffer between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on the other side of the Suez Canal.

Some alternate historians say Moses and the children of Israel passed near the site of Yamit 3,500 years ago as they wandered for 40 years through the Sinai Desert on their way to the proverbial land of milk and honey.

Since April 25, 1982 only the whine of the desert wind weaves its currents through the crevices of destroyed homes, businesses and monument--a memorial to the young men who died during the 1967 Six Day war.

Christians, Jews and Muslims died during three Arab-Israeli wars and battles that took place in the Sinai in 1956, 1967 and 1973--Egyptian and Israeli--young people who fought and died in that desolate, forsaken desert wasteland.

The modern-day chariot carrying Egyptian President Mohammed Anwar al-Sadat hugged the intermittently green coastline of Sinai on its historic mission to Jerusalem. Israelis glancing upward into the clear night sky saw merely a jet banking gently to the northwest.

Official Israeli government policy was that the settlers had to be removed and the army came and forcibly removed the remaining diehard residents. The Jerusalem Post described the scene: Apocalypse had arrived in Yamit and in the dust and noise and destruction one could wander freely. Dozens of bulldozers and giant mobile air hammers were loose in the city like a pack of predatory beasts."

April 25, 20011 marked the 29th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Yamit and Sinai and a cold peace between long-term enemies.

That gift of peace silently glided overhead as the Sabbath disappeared and the stars appeared. At 8:01 p.m. Sadat's jetliner landed at Ben-Gurion Airport and the first minutes of a then potential peace came to the Middle East.

Old enemies became new friends. The crowds roared its approval when Sadat shook hands with Moshe Dayan. A person standing nearby, according to the Jerusalem Post, said Sadat told Dayan, "Don't worry Moshe, it will be all right."

The peace treaty between the two nations was signed on March 26, 1979 and on April 25, 1982; the events that had started on a November day at Camp David came to fruition. Sinai was returned to Egypt. Yamit was bulldozed to the ground. But Anwar Sadat did not live to see that day. He had been assassinated seven months before.



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