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Israel to bar UN fact-finding team from entering Jerusalem

News4u-News Desk- Israel cut working relations with the United Nations Human Rights Council and will bar a UN team from entering Israel or the West Bank for a planned investigation of Jewish settlements, the Foreign Ministry said.

Israel accuses the council of having a pronounced anti-Israel bias because of what it says is its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Israeli leaders have been in an uproar over the council’s adoption of a resolution last week condemning Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalemand its decision to send a fact-finding mission to investigate.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announcedIsrael was severing working ties with the council.

“It means that we’re not going to work with them. We’re not going to let them carry out any kind of mission for the Human Rights Council, including this probe,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said he was not surprised by the Israeli move.

“Israel never cooperated with all fact finding missions that were sent and established by the UN to investigate the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians,” he said after meeting his Danish counterpart in Copenhagen.

Much of the international community sees settlement construction on occupied lands the Palestinians seek for a future state as a major impediment to peacemaking, and has pressured Israel to freeze it. 


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Israel ‘horrified’ by France school attack

News4u - News Desk :  JERUSALEM: Israel on Monday said it was “deeply shocked” and “horrified” by a shooting attack at a Jewish school in France, in which an Israeli-French dual citizen and three children were killed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was “deeply shocked” over the incident, a statement from his bureau said.

“Only a person possessing demonic evil could conduct such a terrible murder of small children at a school,” it quoted him as saying.

French authorities said at least four people were dead in the shooting attack at the Ozar Hatorah school in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

An Israeli relative of a deceased man named him as Jonathan Sandler, originally from Jerusalem, who had left to France last year.

The gunman shot a man outside the school before one of his weapons jammed and he then entered the school grounds where he sprayed the area with bullets, a local prosecutor said.

Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the attack was against Jews and Israel and, as such should alert the international community.

“Jewish children and a teacher were murdered this morning because they were Jewish,” he said in remarks broadcast by military radio. “This just shows the horrors of anti-Semitism, which also manifests in anti-Israeli (acts)… This should be a warning signal to the world.”

Earlier, Israeli Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP that they Jewish state was “horrified” by the attack.

“We trust the French authorities to shed full light on this tragedy and bring the perpetrators of these murders to justice,” he told AFP.

The incident came just days after two previous shootings in the region by a man on a motorbike who killed three soldiers.

Police in southwestern France launched a major manhunt last week after the killing of three paratroopers and the wounding of another in two separate, but connected incidents.AFP

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Israeli envoy leaves Cairo after embassy attack

News4u-News Desk-Cairo, (AFP)Israel flew its ambassador home from Cairoon Saturday after protesters stormed its embassy building, plunging Egypt’s military rulers into their worst diplomatic crisis since they took over from Hosni Mubarak.

Three people were killed and 1,049 wounded in clashes between protesters and police, the Health Ministry said.

The United States, which has poured billions of dollars of military aid into Egypt since it made peace with Israel in 1979, urged Cairo to protect the embassy after protesters hurled embassy documents and the Israeli flag from windows.

“Our dignity has been restored,” said Mohi Alaa, 24, a protester who was speaking near the site of overnight clashes with police around the building that houses the Israeli embassy. Bits of concrete and bullet casings were strewn over the street.

“We don’t want the Americans’ money,” he said, reflecting a growing readiness among many Egyptians to express anger at Israel and the United States over Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, after decades of pragmatic official relations.

Police had fired shots in the air and teargas to disperse the crowd. Protesters had lit tires in the street and at least two vehicles were set alight near the embassy, located on the upper floors of a residential block overlooking the Nile.

One of the three who died was in the nearby Agouza hospital, where a Reuters reporter saw a corpse with a punctured chest.

Some 500 protesters stayed after dawn and a few threw stones at police, who gradually pushed them away and secured the area.

It was the second big eruption of violence at the embassy since five Egyptian border guards were killed last month when Israel repelled cross-border raiders it said were Palestinians. Egypt then briefly threatened to withdraw its envoy to Israel.

Israel has stopped short of apologizing, saying it is still investigating the Egyptian deaths, which occurred during an operation against gunmen who had killed eight Israelis.

AMBASSADOR EVACUATED

Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon, staff and family members arrived home on Saturday, but one diplomat stayed in Egypt to maintain the embassy, an Israeli official said.

State television said Prime Minister Essam Sharaf headed an emergency ministerial crisis meeting and then went to see Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military council that has ruled Egypt since Mubarak resigned on February 11.

Israel is finding itself increasingly at odds with formerly sympathetic states in the region. It is already embroiled in a feud with Turkey, once the closest of its few Muslim allies, over its treatment of the Palestinians.

Egypt’s generals, under pressure to hand power to civilians more swiftly, must balance public calls for a more assertive foreign policy toward Israel with maintaining ties that bring cash and top-notch U.S. military equipment.

Under Mubarak, Egyptians could never show such hostility to Israel without a crushing security response.

Egypt’s ties with Israel, though never warm, were a pillar of Mubarak’s foreign policy and buttressed his claim to be a regional mediator. Mubarak regularly met Israeli officials.

US President Barack Obama called on Egypt to “honor its international obligations” and protect the Israeli mission. He told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington was taking steps to resolve the situation.

An Israeli official said the ambassador, staff and family members had left in one plane and a second one had brought home six Israeli security personnel who had been left guarding the embassy, protected from the crowd only by a reinforced door until Egyptian troops extracted them.

“The fact that Egyptian authorities ultimately acted with determination is laudable. With that said, Egypt cannot let slide this harsh blow to the fabric of relations with Israel and the gross violation of international norms,” Netanyahu said in a statement. He also thanked Washington for its role.

“SERIOUS STANCE”

Before attacking the embassy, protesters had tried to storm a local police compound, hurled stones at the police and set at least four vehicles and a public building ablaze.

The April 6 movement, which helped to lead the anti-Mubarak uprising, said those behind the violence were trying to “distort the image of the revolution.” It blamed supporters of Mubarak.

Some politicians and activists criticized the violence, even if they backed the anti-Israel demonstration.

Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy called for the army to take a “serious stance matching the public anger” toward Israel, but said violence sullied the image of Egypt’s uprising.

Last month, a man scaled the embassy building, took down Israel’s flag and replaced it with Egypt’s. Protests continued daily but did not turn violent until the latest flare-up.

In response to the protests, the authorities had erected a wall around the building, which was quickly defaced with anti-Israel slogans and then painted in Egypt’s national colors.

On Friday, the wall was torn down after a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square calling for speedier reforms and a deeper purge of officials who worked for Mubarak, the former president on trial on charges including conspiring to kill protesters.

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Ceasefire in sight between Israel and Palestinian sides

News4u-News Desk- An informal ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian sides appeared in sight after three days of cross border shelling left 17 Palestinians dead, even as the Jewish state vowed to respond “most harshly” to any rocket fire on its territory by Gaza-based militants.

In a rare direct appeal, Hamas asked Israel to halt the current cross border shelling, insisting that the faction wanted peace.

 

Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, warned of a strong response if mortar shells and rockets continue to be fired in its southern territories.

 

“The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) hit Hamas and the terrorist organisations hard over the weekend,” he told his ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
“If attacks against Israeli civilians and the IDF continue, the response will be most harsh,” he asserted.

The Israeli Premier was backed by deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Ellie Yishai, who called on the cabinet to agree to taking “less routine” and more “stronger” action against the Gaza Strip, to curb the onslaught of rockets.

 

Hamas’ Deputy Foreign Minister, Ghazi Hamad, said in an interview to Israel Radio: “We are interested in calm but want the Israeli military to stop its operations”.
Yishai said that he was not envisioning “another Cast Lead” operation, referring to the war between Hamas and Israelmore than two years ago, but rather “an expanded air operation”.

“A ground operation is completely useless. We need to do something stronger and not stay apathetic as we have been, in order to bring calm to the area,” the deputy Prime Minister said.
Both Islamist Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip since June 2007, and Israel have signalled willingness towards another informal ceasefire after the escalation during the last 72 hours saw at least 19 Palestinians killed and more than 100 rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that the army would be willing to accept a mutual cease-fire with Hamas if the movement stopped firing from Gaza.

“If they stop firing on our communities, we will stop firing. If they stop firing in general, it will be quiet, it will be good,” Barak said.
A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, on the other hand was reported in the local media as saying that the Palestinian factions are not interested in escalation and calm will be restored if the Israeli attacks on Gaza stopped.
Unconfirmed reports by Palestinian news agency Ma’an said that UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, has managed to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gazalate last night.
All the Palestinian militant factions, except Islamic Jihad, which fired three mortar shells today on Israel are said to have agreed for the ceasefire.

 

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No Gaza war warning given to Abbas: Israel

News4u - News Desk : A senior Israeli official Monday denied that the Palestinian Authority received specific advance warning that Israel planned to invade Gaza in 2008, contradicting documents leaked by Al-Jazeera.

The news channel reported overnight that a cache of 1,600 leaked documents related to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations showed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas received advance warning of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead offensive.
But Amos Gilad, the senior Israeli defence official said to have informed Abbas of the plan, today denied having given any such warning.
“This is an example of inaccuracy. No concrete warning concerning an offensive was given to the Palestinian Authority,” Gilad, director of political-military affairs at the Defence Ministry, told Israeli public radio.
The documents obtained by Al-Jazeera, which have already prompted a furious reaction from the Palestinian Authority, contain a series of revelations about contacts between Israeland the Palestinians over the past decade.
But Gilad said the suggestion that the Palestinian Authority received specific advance information about the 22-day Operation Cast Lead was ridiculous.
“I didn’t say anything to president Abbas that I hadn’t said to the entire world: that we could not tolerate the resumption of rocket fire and other terrorist attacks against our territory,” said Gilad.
At the time of the invasion, Gilad served as a co-coordinator on Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories. “You could have just deduced that Israel would act. But no concrete information was given,” he added.
The documents obtained by Al-Jazeera and shared with British newspaper The Guardian have been touted as providing an “unprecedented look” at Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
They come after whistleblower website WikiLeaks released thousands of US diplomatic cables, including some that reported Israeli officials had offered to coordinate the devastating Cast Lead operation with the Palestinian leadership and offered to hand control of Gaza to Abbas’ Fatah and Egypt.
The Palestinians and Egypt both reportedly refused any role.
Gaza has been under the control of the militant movement Hamas since 2007, when it routed Fatah forces in bloody fighting, a year after it won legislative elections.
Israel’s Operation Cast Lead ended in a ceasefire on 18thJanuary 2009, killed 1,400 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.

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Hamas PM denies al-Qaida presence in Gaza

News4u-News Desk-Gaza City, The prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza has denied Israeli allegations that al-Qaida operates in the coastal strip and that Palestinian militants had planned to carry out attacks in neighbouring Egypt.

Ismail Haniyeh told reporters today that such allegations are lies meant to prepare the ground for future Israeli attacks on Gaza.

He says he sent a reassuring letter to Egypt’s intelligence chief.

Israel’s military believes that al-Qaida operatives have infiltrated Gaza.

Israeli air strikes killed three Gaza militants last month who Israel said planned attacks in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. ap

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Israeli shelling kills three Palestinians in Gaza

News4u-News Desk-GAZA : Israeli shelling killed three Palestinians in the   Gaza Strip on Sunday, medical workers and witnesses said, after militants in the Hamas-ruled territory fired rockets across the border.

Hamas security and medical officials said the three Palestinian dead were farmers from the town of Beit Hanoun near the Israel- Gaza   border. Three other Palestinians were wounded, they said.

An Israeli military spokesman said soldiers in the area shot at a group trying to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at them, “who were apparently hit.” The shelling followed the firing of two rockets by militants in the Hamas-ruled  Gaza   Strip   into Israel. No one was hurt.

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Libya charity to rebuild Gaza homes devastated by Israel

News4u-News Desk-Tripoli, (AFP) A charity group run by the Libyan leader’s son Seif al-Islam Kadhafi said today it signed a USD 50 million deal with a UN agency to rebuild 1,250 refugee homes in the Gaza Strip.

“We have signed an agreement with UNRWA to build 1,250 homes in Gaza for a total cost of 50 million dollars,” the executive director of the Kadhafi Foundation, Yussef Sawan, told AFP.

Israel launched a devastating offensive on Gaza at the end of December 2008 that lasted 22 days and left many homes, schools and health centres damaged.Arab governments pledged funds to rebuild the coastal enclave.Sawan said the reconstruction drive will begin “immediately” and that Israeli guarantees were secured in order to bring vital construction equipment into the blockaded Palestinian territory.

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Netanyahu testifies beforeIsrael’s Gaza boat raid inquiry

News4u-News Desk-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to appear before an Israeli commission of inquiry on Monday to explain a commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla which killed nine Turkish activists.

He will be the first of three top officials to give sworn testimony about the 31st May  incident in which naval commandos stormed six aid ships trying to run the blockade on Gaza, killing the activists and wounding scores of others.

The bloody raid caused a diplomatic crisis between Israel andTurkey and sparked global calls for an inquiry — prompting Netanyahu’s government to set up the so-called Tirkel Commission to look into the legality of the operation.

But Netanyahu is not likely to face any awkward questions when he takes to the stand at 9:00 am (0600 GMT) to testify before the five panel members, two foreign observers and hundreds of members of the press and public.

When the committee was created in June, Netanyahu’s office said its mandate was to examine the international legality ofIsrael’s naval blockade and of actions taken to enforce it, as well as the actions of those who organised and took part in the flotilla.

Panel members are not authorised to probe the decision-making process which led up to the operation, nor do they have the authority to question troops involved in storming the boats.

And some of the premier’s testimony is expected to be delivered behind closed doors, a spokesman for the commission said on Sunday.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak will take the stand on Tuesday, followed by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday, with both likely to be quizzed over the operational aspects of boarding the ships.

Ashkenazi will be the only serving member of the military to testify before the committee.

The five-man panel, headed by retired judge Yaakov Tirkel, began investigating the raid at the end of June, and its deliberations are being monitored by two international observers.

The creation of the panel, its members and its mandate were all backed by Israel’s cabinet. Its findings will be presented to the government, which has already blamed the bloodshed on the activists.

Israel says its commandos resorted to force only after they were attacked when they rappelled onto the deck of the Turkish passenger ferry Mavi Marmara.

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Arab League chief in groundbreaking Gaza visit

News4u-News Desk-Rafah (Palestinian Territories), (AFP) Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip “must be broken,” Arab League chief Amr Mussa said today on his first-ever trip to the territory languishing under a four-year blockade.

“This blockade, which we are all here to confront, must be broken and the position of the Arab League is clear,” Mussa said after being welcomed at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt by officials from many Palestinian factions.

“Not only the Arabs, but the entire world should stand with the Palestinian people against the siege of Gaza and what is happening in the occupied territories, especially east Jerusalem,” he said, referring to a surge in Jewish settlement in the annexed Arab half of the city.

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