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Mohammad Abbas Calls for "Palestinian Right of Return"


Interim PA leader Muhmad Abbas (Abu Mazen) has reiterated calls for the so-called Palestinian right of return" in an igneous address in Jericho. As he has exclaimed numerous times of late, he reiterated his commitment to follow in the path of Yasir Arafat. Abu Mazen if the official Fatah candidate in the upcoming PA election and is expected to be elected as Arafat's successor.

Palestinian Minister Calls for U.S. Election Observers

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

A senior Palestinian minister is calling for American monitors to observe the January 9 presidential election. The appeal comes as one of the candidates ran into trouble with Israeli authorities as he tried to get his message out.

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat is calling on the U.S. Congress to send monitors to observe the election. Erekat said it was important that Americans see that Palestinian voters are not operating in an independent state, but rather under Israeli occupation. He said Palestinians want free and fair elections, but the Israeli occupation is an impediment. Erekat also said Palestinians want the Americans to pressure Israel to honor its commitment to help facilitate the elections.

When Secretary of State Colin Powell came here last month he received assurances from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel would to whatever it could to help. And, on Sunday the Israeli cabinet approved measures to do just that, including plans to withdraw Israeli troops from Palestinian population centers and to allow candidates to travel freely to campaign.

But, one candidate has already run into trouble trying to get his message out. Mustafa Barghouti, a prominent physician and human rights activists was campaigning in East Jerusalem on Monday when Israeli police arrested him and held him briefly for questioning. Police said Barghouti had violated his Israeli entry permit that allows him to travel through Jerusalem, but not to stop there.

Barghouti campaign spokesman, Allam Jarrar said the Israeli action was harassment. "We view this act as a violation of the fairness and the integrity of the electoral process, said Jarrar. "We see it also as a violation of the statements of the Israelis themselves and also their commitment to facilitate the election process in Palestine."

The Palestinian presidential campaign follows local elections in 26 West Bank communities last week. The mainstream Fatah faction came out on top despite a strong showing from the Islamic militant group Hamas that claimed victory in nine municipal councils. Opinion polls show Fatah remains the most popular faction with Hamas retaining considerable support, especially in the Gaza Strip. What came as somewhat of a surprise was Hamas' solid showing in what were thought to be Fatah strongholds in the West Bank.

Palestinian sociologist, Nader Said, has conducted numerous public opinion polls on political and social issues. He sees the election outcome not so much as a victory for Hamas, but rather a protest vote against Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. "What we have seen in the local elections is basically a split vote between a block supportive of the continuation of the status quo under the Palestinian national authority as we see it and a protest vote saying that there is a Palestinian solid opposition."

Frantic Search for Israelis in Southeast Asia


The death toll in Southeast Asia climbed close to 60,000 on Tuesday after tidal waves washed the coasts of Sri Lanka, Thailand and India on Sunday. The death toll is expected to continue rising. Foreign Ministry staffers are working furiously to find the hundreds of missing Israelis in Southeast Asia. The main concern is that bodies will be buried anonymously in mass graves.

Some 1,700 Israelis were known to be in southeast Asia when the earthquake and resulting tsunamis hit, and several hundred of them have not yet been contacted. Many of them were in areas that were not directly affected by the calamity. One Israeli is known to have been killed in the catastrophe, and 33 injured, including four seriously.

The country of Sri Lanka, which has been most hard-hit, refuses to accept Israeli rescue personnel. Though Sri Lanka's population is 70% Buddhist, and only 7% Muslim, it has no diplomatic relations with Israel. An Israeli shipment of equipment and medicine would accepted there, however. A 50-member medical delegation of Israeli doctors, nurses and others departed Monday for Thailand, and has already established a field hospital there.

A boat from an isolated Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka, near a tsunami-hit area, rescued six Israeli hikers. The six were on the beach or in the water nearby when they were swept away by a giant wave. Aside from their bathing suits, all their belongings and documents were apparently lost.

Civil Disobedience Begins


The "civil disobedience" campaign against the transfer/expulsion plan has begun. Shomron residents waged a sit-in on a road near Shavei Shomron, blocking a Disengagement Authority bus on its way.

Three residents of Shomron communities were arrested Tuesday as they, encouraged by more than 50 supporters, sat on the road to block a convoy of Disengagement Authority officials traveling near Shavei Shomron and Homesh. Among those reported to have been taken into custody is Kedumim Mayor and long-time Yesha activist Daniella Weiss.

Sometimes overlooked by the planned expulsion of nearly 8,000 residents in Gush Katif, the 500 residents of four northern Samaria communities are also on the chopping block. The move will leave practically the entire northern Shomron in Arab hands, and place areas such as Netanya, Hadera, Afula and others under the same threats they faced before the Six Day War.

Asked to comment on the ramifications of Israel's withdrawal from northern Samaria, Mayor Weiss said, "Everyone who lives on the coastal plane from Haifa to Tel Aviv must be aware that if, Heaven forbid, this area falls into the hands of those who say they are the successors to Arafat, the story will not end here, but in Ramat Gan and Herzliya."

Kaddoumi Promises More Terrorism to Eliminate Israel


One of the new leaders of the Palestinian Authority's ruling Fatah movement said his people want to replace Israel with a state of their own, World reported. Fatah chief Farouk Khaddoumi said the PA strategy toward Israel was two-fold, according to the report. The first stage is acceptance of Israel alongside a PA state. But this is to be followed by an attempt to eliminate the Jewish state. Khaddoumi replaced the deceased arch-terrorist Yasir Arafat as leader of Fatah this past November.

This past April, Arutz-7 reported Kaddoumi's remarks to the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab that the Palestinian Liberation Organization - the forerunner of the Palestinian Authority - has never changed its charter negating Israel's right to exist. He also said at the time that Israel should not expect less terrorism if it withdraws from Gaza. "If Israel wants to leave the Gaza Strip, then it should do so. This means that the Palestinian resistance has forced it to leave. But the resistance will continue. Let the Gaza Strip be South Vietnam. We will use all available methods to liberate North Vietnam.

"At this stage there will be two states," Khaddoumi told Iran's Al Aram television, World reported. "Many years from now, there will be only one." He expressed confidence that in the end, Israel would be eliminated. "[There are] 300 million Arabs, while Israel has only the sea behind it."

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