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Arab Newspaper Claims Israel and Hamas Close to Deal

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Hamas has reduced the number of prisoners it has demanded that Israel free in exchange for IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit – and Israel has tentatively agreed to the offer, according to the Ha'aretz news service, quoting a report on Thursday in the London-based Arabic newspaper, Al Hayat. The exact number of prisoners to be released and when Israel would do so has not been discussed, reported Al Hayat. Terrorists holding Shalit prisoner have now demanded the release of all PA Arab women, about 100 inmates, as well as 30 male prisoners who have served jail terms of more than 20 years.


Israel Reoccupies Gaza, ABC TV Says 20 Palestinians, One Israeli Dead

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)


Israel has pushed further into the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip, expanding a ground offensive. News agencies are reporting one Israeli soldier has died in the fighting

Israeli tanks and troops moved into northern Gaza, reoccupying the area of three former Jewish settlements abandoned nearly a year ago. The army is effectively carving out a buffer zone, in a bid to halt weeks of Palestinian rocket attacks.

The government ordered the offensive after homemade Kassam rockets hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon for the first time. Gunmen from the Islamic terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Authority, claimed responsibility.

No one was hurt in the rocket attacks, but Israel said Hamas crossed a red line by targeting a major population center. Government spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said, even though all soldiers and settlers pulled out of Gaza last year, the Israel Defense Forces would go back in if they had to.

"The IDF can operate from the air, from the land, from the sea, and choose the time and place in order to prevent the Kassam rocket firing. This time, the IDF chose another method of operation, which keeps those who fire the Kassams off balance," Gissin said.

Moderate Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat said it was a black day. "I think, what we're witnessing now is reoccupation of Gaza Strip. I don't know what will this produce. This will add to the complexities."

Israel and the Hamas-led Palestinian government have been on a collision course since an Israeli soldier was kidnapped more than 12 days ago from an army base near Gaza. Hamas gunmen holding the soldier have not released any information since Israel refused to meet a Tuesday deadline set by the terrorists to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Israel said it would not negotiate for the soldier's release, but behind the scenes, Egypt and Turkey are continuing to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The kidnappers are reportedly prepared to lower their price, but reject Israel's demand for an unconditional release of the captive soldier.


UN to Investigate Alleged Israeli Human Rights Violations in Gaza

By Lisa Schlein (VOA-Geneva)
The U.N. Human Rights Council has voted to send an urgent fact-finding mission to Gaza to investigate alleged human rights violations there by Israel. At the end of a special session of the Council, members approved a resolution condemning Israel's military actions in Gaza by a vote of 29 to 11 and five abstentions.

The resolution criticizes Israel for the arrest of Palestinian government ministers, other officials and civilians. It condemns the military attacks against Palestinian ministries, power plants, and bridges.

The text demands that Israel end its military operations in Gaza and refrain from imposing what it calls collective punishment on Palestinian civilians. It calls for a negotiated solution to the current crisis.

Canadian Representative Terry Cormier said his country voted against the resolution because it did not provide a balanced perspective on events in Gaza.

"This draft resolution focuses almost entirely on Israel, while ignoring that party's legitimate security concerns," he said. "It also fails to acknowledge that the Palestinian Authority has the responsibility to prevent the constant firing of rockets into Israel, to resolve the present hostage-taking crisis and to prevent the reoccurrence of such criminal acts."

Pakistan's Ambassador, Masood Khan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, expressed his dismay. He said he could not understand how any country could vote against the resolution in the face of the escalation and violation of human rights in the territory.

John Dugard is the Special U.N. Investigator who will be going to Gaza. He presented a report to the Council at the beginning of the session in which he accused Israel of collective punishment. He also criticized Israel for violating the prohibition on measures of intimidation and terrorism in its actions in Gaza.

The Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Itzhak Levanon, accused the Council of double standards and of vilifying his country. "Allow me to remind our august Council that the current crisis on which we are meeting today was not initially provoked by the Israeli incursion into Gaza," he said. "It was triggered by the attack on our sovereign territory by Palestinian terrorist groups with the aim of sowing death."

Levanon told the Council Israel left Gaza last summer of its own free will and did not intend to return there this summer. He said the Council had to condemn the Palestinian terrorist actions, if it did not want to fall into disrepute as had its predecessor, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.


Mashaal Shows Signs of Bending on Kidnapped Soldier

By IsraelNationalNews.com & Ha'aretz

On IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit's 12th day of captivity, Khaled Meshaal - orchestrating the Hamas kidnappers' demands from Damascus or some other hideout – has shown signs of readiness to reach an agreement.

Mashaal has been running the Hamas "diplomatic desk" out of Damascus for several years, though there have been reports that he is now hiding out somewhere in north Africa. The Arabic London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reports that Mashaal now says that Hamas is willing to show some flexibility and agree to the Egyptian mediation proposal.

Egypt has suggested that the soldier be released immediately, in return for Israel's agreement to release Arab prisoners in the future.

Mashaal's deputy, Abu Marzuk, is reported as saying that Hamas would not cede its demand for the release of prisoners. It is estimated that some 10,000 PA terrorists are incarcerated in Israel.

Noam Shalit, Gilad's soft-spoken father, spoke with a spokesman for Hamas terror group Izaddin El Kassam Thursday morning. The conversation was facilitated by the Arab-Jewish Voice of Peace radio station in Jerusalem. Shalit asked that his son not be harmed, and said, "I repeat what I said yesterday, which is just that there's no reason for any further suffering, and we could end this today." He said Wednesday that the abductors should allow a third-party such as the Red Cross to meet with his son.

The Hamas spokesman, Abu Abeida, responded in Arabic, "We have submitted our demands, and Israel can respond and negotiate with us... What does Israel demand?" Noam Shalit said, "I am not a spokesman for the government of Israel."

"In the end, it will be necessary to pay a price for Gilad's freedom. I don't understand why the government is delaying negotiations on this price," Noam Shalit added.

This was the first time Noam Shalit has publicly voiced support for a prisoner exchange, a demand Hamas has been making on Israel since the soldier was captured. "I know releasing prisoners was on the agenda before the incident, as a kind of gesture, so there is no reason for it not to be on the agenda also after the incident, for the good of releasing a soldier who was sent by the state to the front lines," said Shalit.

The Victims of Arab Terror organization has written to the International Red Cross, demanding to know why it has not been more forceful in demanding to see the kidnapped soldier. "Israel always agrees to allow the Red Cross to see imprisoned terrorists," VAT head Shifra Hoffman told Arutz-7. "We have not received a single sign of life from Gilad Shalit. Why is the Red Cross not making similar demands to see this soldier, who is suffering in captivity?"

Khaled Mashaal met with a Turkish official and expressed his willingness to the said deal with Israel. The Damascus-based Hamas official warned the envoy, however, that though his organization preferred finding a diplomatic solution to the current crisis, his organization was ready to fight the IDF if provoked.


Where is Israel's Declaration of Independence?

By YnetNews.com

Is Israel's Declaration of Independence kept at the National Archives not the original document but a reconstruction?

A 68-year-old northern Israel resident claims that the original Declaration of Independence was written by her father, a Torah scribe, and was stained by ink. Her father, she said, re-wrote the text on a parchment and stored the original ink-stained document. The original document was signed by members of the People's Council and Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

"While I was going through our family archives I saw the Declaration among the old documents – this was the Declaration that our family was talking about all those years," said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous until the matter is settled.

Golan Mishali, the woman's attorney, said "At first it sounded like a made-up story, like an Indiana Jones movie, but after I saw the document - it made a serious impression o me. I determined that it is an authentic document with ink stains, and after checking with experts, I can say there is a chance that it could be the original."

Mishali also added that his client's father wrote the document under orders from the pre-State establishment. "He was professional, a Torah scriber who produced special works," the attorney said.

In history books the name Otte Wallish, a known graphic designer, appears as the writer of the document. "History books present different scenarios regarding the writing of the declaration, and one of them says that an anonymous person wrote it, a Torah scriber. Even if Otte Wallish was involved in the writing, the original was written by the same person, and one must remember that history books are not an exact science."

Twelve of the 37 members of the People's Council singed the document following a ceremony. "The number of signatures on the document we have is the same as in the familiar distributed document," said Mishali.


Before turning to the authorities, Mishali researched the issue. He talked to officials at the Tel Aviv Museum and collected on the history of the document. "The more material I found the more convinced I became of my client's claim," said Mishali. "It seems that at the time of the reading of the Declaration of Independence, Ben-Gurion read the text from papers typed by a typewriter; he did not read from the original document."

History says that the document itself is composed of three pieces of paper that were put together to make a long parchment. "Another version says that the parchment was blank and after 'reading' it at the Declaration of Independence ceremony Ben-Gurion and the rest of the People's Council signed the bottom portion of the parchment and the declaration was added at a later time," Mishali said.

"The document in our possession is written on what appears to be a uniform parchment containing marks pointing to where it should be trimmed. According to my client, the original declaration of independence was stained by ink, and therefore it was kept at home. As a 10 year-old child my client remembers the commotion at home as her father re-wrote the document."

The ink stain is actually documented in history books. The book "The first 32 minutes" by Pinchas Jurman says: "After the ceremony, in the midst of the war, Wallish turned to the Chief Rabbinate asking it to recommend an experienced Torah scriber who can write the Declaration of Independence on parchment. The scriber recommended by the Rabbinate started the delicate work but apparently chose the wrong ink. Instead of beautifully crafted letters the document was covered with ugly stains that smudged the lines."


The book does no mention what became of the stained document. Mishali's request to examine the original document stored at the National Archives was rejected. "If the original is at the archive, then what is the problem?" asked Mishali, who threatened legal action.

National Archives Director Dr. Moshe Skal said in response: "Attorney Mishali did request to look at the Declaration of Independence and I relayed the request to the legal advisor of the Prime Minister's Office.

The Prime Minister's office said in a statement: "Generally the National Archives does not display publicly the original Declaration of Independence it keeps for fear it may be damaged.

"Section 4 of the archiving regulations authorizes the Archives to provide photocopies of originals, if there is a need for it, in order to preserve the original material. Attorney Mishali's request is being considered by the Prime Minister's legal advisors and he will get an answer once they complete their evaluations."

The Prime Minister's Office also added that "according to the National Archives the Declaration of Independence kept there is authentic and original."


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