Douglas's Feed
Aug 6, 2010

Israel watches two hot borders, and maybe a third

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has Iranian-supported enemies in Lebanon to the north and Gaza to the south. Its back to the sea is safe. But security on its eastern border may be threatened if hostile Iran expands into an unstable Iraq.

Israeli analysts differ on the risk of encirclement by enemy forces allied to Tehran, on the degree to which Hamas and Hezbollah will do Iran’s bidding, and on the chances of Iran gaining greater leverage in Baghdad via its Shi’ite connections.

Aug 6, 2010

Analysis: Israel watches two hot borders, and maybe a third

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has Iranian-supported enemies in Lebanon to the north and Gaza to the south. Its back to the sea is safe. But security on its eastern border may be threatened if hostile Iran expands into an unstable Iraq.

Israeli analysts differ on the risk of encirclement by enemy forces allied to Tehran, on the degree to which Hamas and Hezbollah will do Iran’s bidding, and on the chances of Iran gaining greater leverage in Baghdad via its Shi’ite connections.

Aug 4, 2010

Israeli army returns to Lebanon border clash point

MISGAV AM, Israel (Reuters) – The Israeli army moved a crane back into a tense frontier zone with Lebanon on Wednesday to complete a tree-pruning mission that led to the deadliest violence along the border since a 2006 war.

A day after a senior Israeli officer, two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist were killed in a rare clash between the Israeli and Lebanese armies, Israel appeared keen to show it would not be deterred from operating in the area.

Aug 3, 2010

Blood on the rocks by Israel-Lebanon tripwire

ISRAEL-LEBANON MILITARY ZONE (Reuters) – Blood-stains mark the rocky ground by the entrance to a camouflaged army bunker where the Israeli military says one of its colonels was killed by a Lebanese army sniper team on Tuesday.

“There were only two or three shots,” said an Israeli military spokeswoman. “They were standing there, where the blood is.”

Jul 30, 2010
via FaithWorld

Feeble, choked River Jordan struggles for salvation

Photo

(Photo: Orthodox Christian nuns stand in the muddy Jordan River with two pilgrims at the Qasir al-Yahud baptismal site near the West Bank city of Jericho, March 31, 2010/Darren Whiteside)

Christian pilgrims alarmed by claims that baptism in the River Jordan could make them sick are being urgently reassured by Israeli officials that the water poses no health risk.

Water quality tests published this week counter allegations by environmentalist group Friends of the Earth that the level of coliform bacteria from sewage in the river is too high for safe bathing, Eli Dror of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority said.

Jul 7, 2010

Palestinians wary of direct peace talks with Israel

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu want direct talks soon on a Middle East peace treaty, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is wary of walking into a trap.

The Palestinians insist on keeping Israel at arm’s length until it makes certain things clear — namely, what size and shape of Palestinian state is Netanyahu prepared to consider, and will its Jordan Valley be free of Israeli troops?

Jun 21, 2010

Israel boosts Gaza freight flow as blockade eases

KEREM SHALOM, Israel (Reuters) – Israelis at this fortified border crossing are gearing up for a sharp increase in road shipments to Gaza, following a decision to loosen Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

Israel’s old rules banned everything it chose not to let in. Now it is promising to let in everything that has not been specifically ruled out.

May 28, 2010

“Last exit” curtails Palestinian highway access

ROUTE 443, West Bank (Reuters) – Israel on Friday began allowing Palestinians onto a major highway in the occupied West Bank for the first time in eight years, but barred them from using it to gain easy access to their main city, Ramallah.

Just a few kilometers (miles) east of the new checkpoint where Palestinians are now allowed on to Route 443, big yellow road signs warn them to get off again, at the “last exit for Palestinian vehicles” to the West Bank’s commercial capital.

May 25, 2010

Israel ends highway segregation, pleasing no-one

ROUTE 443, West Bank, May 25 (Reuters) – Starting Friday, Israeli troops will guard new checkpoints in the West Bank that nullify the impact of an Israeli court order allowing Palestinian drivers to use route 443.

What was hailed as a victory for justice six months ago, when a 2002 ban on Palestinian traffic was ruled illegal, now looks like sleight of hand presaging a "human rights travesty", says the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

"Nobody really is happy with it," says ACRI chief legal counsel Dan Yakir, who successfully argued the case on behalf of petitioning Palestinians from nearby villages while Israelis concerned about security tried to maintain the ban.

"The Palestinians are very disappointed by the fact that the road will be opened only partially," he said. "The Israelis are unhappy with it, though I don’t think the road poses any major risk to Israelis."

The 25 km (15 mile) four-lane, divided highway links Israel’s coastal plain with the uplands of Jerusalem. But 14 km of it run through the occupied West Bank, and for eight years it has been reserved for Israeli vehicles only.

Last December, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that keeping Palestinians off a route that was built on land confiscated from them by the occupying military power was illegal. It ordered the army to end the ban it imposed in 2002 after five Israelis were shot on the road during the Palestinian intifada (uprising).

Village spokesmen who briefed reporters on Tuesday said the ban on using 443 had tripled their travelling time to the West Bank’s main city of Ramallah, where the jobs, hospitals, banks and government offices are, for the past eight years.

Instead Palestinians had to use steep and twisting routes over the hills and through the fields.

There was no point calling an ambulance because it would take an hour to arrive, they said. Students dropped out of university because the journey time was too long and expensive. Some mothers gave birth on the way to hospital.

But the new arrangement would be no better, they said.

"The idea of the new checkpoints is to make us tired of using this route so the army can go back to court and say; See, we opened the road but they don’t use it," said Saleh Atya.

BUSY ROUTE

An estimated 40,000 Israeli drivers now use Route 443 daily, many preferring its fast curves and relatively light traffic to the twisting switchback of the main Highway 1 from Tel Aviv, which can be choked to a standstill at peak hours.

As of this weekend, cars with green-on-white Palestinian plates will mix in traffic on 443 with black-on-yellow Israeli plates, but only up to a point.

Before they can reach Jerusalem or Ramallah they must turn off Route 443.

Work crews were this week putting the finishing touches to a three-lane checkpoint astride the eastbound highway, so Israeli troops can slow down and inspect vehicles to ensure no Palestinian without a permit crosses the line.

Checkpoints were also being completed at two new entry ramps Israel has opened onto the road, and concrete roadblocks, steel gates and earthen berms have been removed from four new exit points onto existing West Bank roads long blocked off.

On both sides, two-metre (6.5 ft) high fencing lined and topped with coils of razor now frames Route 443 like bright metallic hedges, in case Palestinians try to leave the route illegally. There are tunnels of steel fencing for pedestrians at the exit and entry ramps, overlooked at two points by Israeli army watchtowers.



SHORT STRETCH

Palestinians say they will end up using a mere 4 km (2.5 miles) of the road between Israel’s main westbound and eastbound checkpoints, and probably not even that if it proves faster to use existing roads and tunnels under 443 rather than queue to be checked on and off it.

ACRI says the Supreme Court left open loopholes which the army drove through, respecting the letter of the law but "acting in utter disregard of the spirit of the ruling" by setting security provisions which negate the opening of 443.

This "creates the false impression of new regulations, genuine freedom of movement and adherence to the rule of law, though in fact no real change will occur," it said.

But ACRI attorney Yakir said it was at least a start.

The irony is that when 443 was built by the military in the 1980s, the Supreme Court threw out a local challenge, accepting the state’s argument that the road was intended primarily for the benefit of the Palestinian population.

Israelis now say they will no longer feel safe using 443, if they have to share it with Palestinians who, they fear, may turn to violence against them at any time.

Some in suburban Modi’in, whose 75,000 inhabitants rely heavily on Route 443, were backing a last-minute petition to block the changes. Some were telling Israeli media they plan to switch their commute to Highway 1, just to be safe. (Editing by Diana Abdallah)



May 17, 2010

Israeli coalition wobbly on peace terms: minister

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s six-party, center-right coalition is divided as Israel heads into indirect peace talks with the Palestinians, a cabinet minister said on Sunday.

“I can’t say the coalition is united. That would be a lie if I told you that,” said Trade and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of the Labour Party — the only left-wing group in the government and an advocate of conceding land for peace.