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Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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The Mysterious Mr. Mitchell’s MacGuffin

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It’s a bit like a Hitchock thriller. Nobody knows where he is — not even the U.S. State Department — and nobody knows when he will show up in Israel. All we know is, suspense is building and it’s time to watch out for surprises.

President Barack Obama’s Middle East peace envoy Senator George Mitchell is somewhere in transit — probably – and expected in Israel and the Palestinian Territories next week –  sometime.

A State Dept. spokesman at Wednesday’s regular briefing could not say much at all about Mitchell’s movements beyond he has left Washington.  Could he be in London meeting the Syrian foreign minister? Don’t know.  Is he going to Turkey as well? We will try to find that out. When is he going to be in Israel? Can’t say exactly.

Mitchell is famous for playing his cards very close to his vest and his vest very close to his skin. He gives out very little information when he is engaged in high-stakes mediation.

Why did Fayyad resign?

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A stated desire to open the way for the creation of a Palestinian unity government wasn’t the only reason why Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tendered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas on March 7.

While the move could help Abbas’s Fatah faction and Hamas Islamists bury the hatchet in a reconciliation dialogue in Cairo, it also stemmed from Fayyad’s growing sense of frustration over his acrimonious relations with Fatah stalwarts, confidants said.

Captured Israeli soldier’s parents take protest to Olmert’s doorstep

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Dubbed Israel’s most polite protesters by one Israeli newspaper columnist, the parents of captured soldier Gilad Shalit have set up a protest tent outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Jerusalem residence to press for his release.

 

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Shalit, 22, has been held since 2006 by militants from Hamas and two other groups who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Hamas has demanded Israel release hundreds of its members held in Israeli prisons in exchange for the soldier.

Foreign Affairs

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lieberman1Israeli newspapers are abuzz this morning as they mull over the possibility that ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman could be appointed foreign minister in the government that Benjamin Netanyahu is working to stitch together.

The strong showing by Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel our Home) party in last month’s election – where it won the third most Knesset seats ahead of the Labour Party - has put the Moldovan-born former nightclub bouncer turned bureaucrat in a strong position in the lobbying for top ministerial posts in the new government.

Waiting, in Gaza

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gazashelterWalking in the street, travelling in a car or sitting in a cafe in the Gaza Strip these days, you can hear people talking about and analysing one central issue - whether new Egyptian-sponsored efforts to reconcile the rival Islamist Hamas and the secular Fatah groups can work.  Another thorny thought common in almost every discussion is whether Cairo would be able to turn the current lull in fighting between Israel and Hamas into a durable, sustainable ceasefire that will allow a proper opening of crossings into the coastal territory. Gaza’s 1.5 million popupation was relieved when Israel and Hamas declared separate ceasefires in January following 22-day of Israeli military strikes that killed 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. But relief is still mixed with doubt and unease a month later.

People who lost their houses remain homeless, living with friends, with relatives and in rental apartments and their hopes to rebuild their homes seem remote following news of a setback in Egyptian efforts to reach a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas earlier this month. In daylight those people visit tents they established on and near the rubble of what were once their houses in order to receive Arab and other foreign visitors who visit to assess the damage and promise aid to come. International donors will discuss funding at Sharm el-Sheikh in neighbouring Egypt on Monday. Bulldozers have cleared streets in areas where the Israeli army operated in January but the rubble of houses, offices and Hamas security headquarters remained unremoved. Hamas policemen helped by United Nations teams acted to remove several unexploded bombs from several locations after two children were killed playing with an object recently.

A covert challenge to Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

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Israeli officials aren’t talking, but Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper is quoting intelligence experts and an unnamed former CIA agent as saying that Israel is waging a covert war of sabotage inside Iran in an effort to delay its suspected attempts to build a nuclear weapon.

An intelligence source in the Middle East has told Reuters the Israeli campaign includes sending letter bombs or anthrax-tainted mail to scientists involved in Iran’s nuclear programme and sabotaging related infrastructure. European countries and the United States are also part of the cloak-and-dagger war, the source said.

from Global News Journal:

Mission Accomplished?

It was really only a matter of time.

Within days of the end of Israel's offensive in Gaza - which included the dropping of massive 'bunker-buster' bombs to destroy the vast network of tunnels that run under Gaza's border with Egypt - the tunnels are up and running again.

The tunnelers say they are not interested in smuggling weapons - the food and fuel that Gazans so desperately need are far more profitable contraband anyway.

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