Palestinians protest in West Bank cities over economy

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hundreds of Palestinians protested across several West Bank cities Monday, one of the most violent eruptions yet in the growing public uproar over rising consumer prices and the Palestinian Authority’s budget crisis.

Youths in Ramallah and Bethlehem threw stones, burned tires, blocked roads and set trash cans on fire. Thousands of taxi and truck drivers launched a strike throughout the West Bank to protest the recent spike in gas prices.

Holding signs that read, “We Need a Loan to Buy Gas,” the drivers called upon the cash-strapped Palestinian government to subsidize the latest hike.

Though the day's protests, which were also reported in Hebron and Jenin, appeared spontaneous and disorganized, there were concerns that the movement is gaining steam. On Tuesday, students from colleges and high school are planning to participate in a one-day strike in support of the transportation workers.

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Must Reads: Cash crunch, bikes and a Russian battlefield


From doing battle over Russian cottages to biking to freedom in a Brazilian prison, here are five stories you shouldn't miss from this last week in global news:

Brazil prisoners ride bikes toward prison reform

Archaeologists hope to unearth some Richard III mysteries

Russia's historic Borodino battlefield is in war with cottages

Palestinian Authority faces cash crunch, raising risk of unrest

Egypt town's Muslim-Christian unrest speaks to bigger challenges

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: An inmate pedals a stationary bike to charge a battery at a prison in Santa Rita do Sapucai, Brazil. Credit: Felipe Dana / Associated Press

Israel airstrike kills 3 in Gaza allegedly preparing rocket attack

Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrike

GAZA CITY -- An Israeli airstrike killed at least three Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night as they were preparing to launch a homemade rocket into Israel, witnesses and officials said.

The men were killed while driving in a car outside the Bureij refugee camp, witnesses said. A fourth man was critically injured.

Among those killed were Khalil Jerba, 22, and Khaled Qerem, 24, medical officials said.

Israeli military officials said the men had been implicated in previous rocket attacks. So far this year Palestinian militants have fired about 450 rockets into southern Israel, the military said.


Live bullfights return to Spanish public TV after six years

Egypt president to Syria's Assad: Step down before it's too late

Israel won't negotiate with Hitler store owners in India, envoy says

-- Rushdi abu Alouf

Photo: Palestinians stand by the body of one of three men killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Credit: Mahmud Hams / AFP/Getty Images

Christian monastery is target of political vandalism in Israel

JERUSALEM -- A Christian monastery near Jerusalem was defiled overnight by vandals, who set the front door on fire and spray-painted insults to Christianity, including "Jesus is a monkey" on the outside walls.

A monk sleeping in one of the guest rooms at the Trappist monastery of Latrun awoke from the noise outdoors and extinguished the flames, while the guard called the police, according to Israeli media accounts.

Graffiti in Hebrew included the words "Ramat Migron" and "Maoz Esther" -- the names of two unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank recently removed by Israeli authorities.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, calling for severe punishment for the perpetrators.

"Freedom of religion and freedom of worship are among Israel's basic foundations," Netanyahu said in a statement after meeting with the ministers of public security and defense to discuss what actions were being taken to apprehend the vandals.

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Israeli police evict residents from West Bank outpost of Migron

JERUSALEM — The six-year legal battle over Migron came to an end Sunday as the flagship Jewish outpost in the West Bank quietly emptied of its residents, leaving security forces to deal with outside pro-settlement activists on the site throughout the morning and Defense Ministry crews to pack their belongings.

"Jews do not expel Jews," supporters of Migron chanted at the special police units filing into the outpost in the morning, carrying shields in case of possible clashes. By late afternoon, officials were satisfied with the operation. Some families had left overnight, others early in the morning in cooperation with authorities, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told reporters.

Police roadblocks deployed overnight kept most protesters out; the few activists holed up in vacated homes were carried out by police, who arrested eight people. No injuries were reported. The roadblocks will remain another day while the site itself is turned over to government authority.  

Rosenfeld said the police would step up patrols over the next 24 hours to counter possible backlash from Jewish extremists, including small-scale retaliation in the West Bank or blocking roads in Jerusalem.

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Palestinian family loses its Jerusalem home to Israeli settlers

JERUSALEM -- After more than 25 years of legal battle to keep its home, a Palestinian family of four was forced Sunday to leave its one-room house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el-Amoud after an Israeli court ordered their eviction. The family must turn the house over to its new owners, Israeli settlers.

The settlers led by Florida millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who made his money from gambling, have been after two brothers from the Hamdallah family in Ras el-Amoud since 1985 to get them to leave a plot of land they have lived on for decades.

After dozens of court hearings and back-and-forth lawsuits and appeals, an Israeli court decided in 2005 that Moskowitz was the legal owner of the plot located in the heart of the Arab neighborhood and ordered the younger of the Hamdallah brothers to evacuate his house while allowing the older to stay.

According to Khaled Hamdallah, the older brother, Moskowitz has claimed that a half-acre plot Khaled and his brother Ahmad had built their homes on was his and that he has plans to build a 119-housing unit settlement block on that property to expand his nearby project known as Maale HaZiteem.

Khaled Hamdallah said his family has lived on that land since 1952, long before Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. Ahmad Hamdallah built the one-room house next door after he got married a few years ago.

The Israeli District Court ordered that only Ahmad’s house and part of the land should be turned over to the settlers and the Palestinian family should leave it.

Israeli police and settlers arrived at the site early Sunday and ordered Ahmad and his family to leave while taking their furniture out. Settlers came later, barricaded the windows and doors with metal panels and put up a fence around the plot the court had given them.

Khaled said he stood watching unable to do anything while his brother and family were driven out of their home. The family moved to another place they had rented in anticipation of these events.


India hosts Pakistani lawmakers

'Insider' attacks pose threat to West's exit strategy

NATO airstrike kills Pakistani Taliban leader in Afghanistan

--Maher Abukhater

Arafat poisoned? Death inquiry opened in France


PARIS — Nearly eight years after the death of Yasser Arafat, French prosecutors, spurred by the Palestinian leader's family, opened an inquiry Tuesday on the possibility that he was killed by poisoning.

The probe was announced after recent reports that a Swiss laboratory found traces of the radioactive element polonium on Arafat’s underwear and toothbrush, leading Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat, to file an official complaint in July for an investigation.  

“My daughter, Zahwa, who is 17 years old, wants to know why her father died,” Suha Arafat told the French daily Le Figaro on July 31. A recent report by Al Jazeera revealing high levels of polonium on Arafat’s clothing “pushed me to find out all the truth about the death of my husband,” she added.

Arafat died at age 75 on Nov. 11, 2004, in a military hospital in the Paris region after reportedly suffering a massive stroke, but rumors of foul play spread at the time.

Suha Arafat said that after the Al Jazeera report, she asked to have access to Arafat’s medical death records and also blood and urine samples that were taken, in order to have new tests performed.  However, the French hospital told her the samples were destroyed four years ago.

“That made me wonder. Why did they destroy part of his medical file, when official inquiries into the death of a family member can be filed until 10 years after their death?” she asked in the same interview with Le Figaro. “I want to know whether we can just destroy blood and urine samples like that. That’s why I asked that his medical report be declassified in the complaint.”  

Polonium was used in the 2006 killing of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, and is a highly toxic substance.

“We welcome this decision,” said Palestinian official Saeb Erakat, speaking to AFP. 

“President Mahmoud Abbas has officially asked French President Francois Hollande to help us to investigate the circumstances of the martyrdom of late president Arafat,” and the Palestinian Authority hopes “a serious investigation to reveal the whole truth, in addition to a international investigation to identify all the parties involved,” he added.

Arafat’s remains in the West Bank town of Ramallah will be exhumed and sent for further tests to the same laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, that found traces of polonium on his belongings.

A French judge has not yet been named to lead the investigation, which is being conducted by prosecutors in the town of Nanterre, west of Paris.


China-Japan tensions rising over disputed islands

Israeli court rules U.S. activist Rachel Corrie's death an accident

Kandahar, Afghanistan, Police Chief Abdul Raziq survives bombing

-- Devorah Lauter

Photo: Yasser Arafat, right, assisted by his wife Suha, leaves his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah in October 2004, shortly before his death. Credit: AFP

9 Jewish youths indicted in near-fatal beating of Palestinian teen

JERUSALEM -- Two weeks after the brutal beating of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, nine Jewish teenagers were indicted Tuesday in a Jerusalem court on charges of incitement to violence and commiting racially motivated assault.

Earlier this month, 17-year-old Jamal Julani was walking in downtown Jerusalem with a group of friends doing holiday shopping toward the end of Ramadan. His evening out ended in a hospital bed and serious injury after a group of Jewish teenagers attacked him without provocation, authorities said, brutally beating him unconscious.

Those indicted, according to Israeli media, were Shimon Simantov, 19; and eight minors including  a 15-year-old girl released to house arrest. According to the indictment, the group moved between several downtown flash points that evening looking to pick a fight with Palestinians, chanting racist slurs and intimidating Arab youths they encountered. Most hastened out of their way after being cursed, pushed and kicked, the indictment said.

Three Palestinian youths managed to escape at the beginning of the assault but Julani was beaten relentlessly and kicked while he lay unconscious on the ground, authorities said. The assault was almost fatal; Julani's heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated, according to a justice ministry statement on the indictments.

The incident drew widespread condemnation across the political spectrum, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared Israel would "not tolerate racism" or "the combination of racism and violence," and President Shimon Peres, who expressed "shame" over the attack.

It also sounded an alarm among educators, headed by Minister of Education Gideon Saar, who said the education system would take a stand that would be "sharp and clear," and directed schools to discuss the incident with students upon their return to school this week.

An editorial in the liberal daily Haaretz had scolded Israeli society for feigning shock and wrote that the perpetrators, "children and teens ... absorbed hatred for Arabs from their environment," including the educational and political systems.

A recent poll conducted by Tel Aviv University among high school seniors found that more than half of them did not want to live next door to Arabs and most supported deporting African refugees from the country.

This month's beating of Jamal Julani, widely described by mainstream Israeli media as a "lynching," was defined as an "altercation" by Honenu, a right-wing organization that aids Jews in legal trouble for "defending themselves against Arab aggression or due to their love for Israel," including in this case.  

While Julani was recovering in a Jerusalem hospital, his mother told local media that she pitied her son's attackers -- and their mothers. "Who could be proud of a child who does a thing like this?" she asked.  

She believed her son's assailants would feel more shame and regret as they grew up. After his arrest, one of the teens had said that Julani could die for all he cares, explaining,"He's an Arab." 

-- Batsheva Sobelman

Israeli court rules U.S. activist Rachel Corrie's death an accident

JERUSALEM -- Nine years after their daughter was crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip, the parents of American activist Rachel Corrie on Tuesday lost their legal bid to hold Israel responsible for her death and force authorities to reopen their investigation into the matter.

A Haifa judge rejected the case by Corrie's parents, calling the death a unfortunate accident that the victim brought on herself.

"I am hurt," Corrie's mother, Cindy, was quoted telling journalists after the verdict was announced.

The court rejected the family's request for a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses.

For the members of the Corrie family, who live in Olympia, Wash., it's been an expensive and emotional process, requiring them to travel frequently to Israel for sporadic hearings over the last two years and listen to graphic testimony about how Rachel Corrie, then 23, was run over by a slow-moving bulldozer near the Rafah border of Gaza.

Corrie, a college student, traveled to Gaza with the activist group International Solidarity Movement to act as a human shield to prevent Israeli soldiers from demolishing Palestinian homes and farms.

During the trial, the Israeli bulldozer driver, who was never identified, said he did not see Corrie standing in front of his vehicle. He ran over the young women, then backed up and drove over her a second time, witnesses said.

Activists testified that the driver must have seen Corrie, wearing a fluorescent orange vest. They said it appeared Corrie became trapped in the dirt and debris and was unable to escape.

An Israeli military investigation blamed Corrie and other activists for putting themselves in harm's way. The inquiry suggested that the bulldozer was not directly responsible for her death and that she might have been fatally injured after falling into concrete and other debris.

No charges or disciplinary actions were brought against anyone involved. U.S. officials raised questions about whether the inquiry was credible.

The family argued in court that the military should have suspended the bulldozing operations until the civilian protesters had been removed from the area.


Iran uses Non-Aligned Movement summit to criticize U.S., West

Afghan "insider" shooting kills 2 Americans; 27 die in other violence

Syrian military helicopter shot down in Damascus, rebels say [Video]

-- Edmund Sanders


U.N.: Gaza to be unlivable by 2020 unless serious action taken


The Gaza Strip will be drained of safe water to drink and perilously short on schools, homes and hospitals if serious action isn’t taken to help its booming young population, the United Nations said in a new report released Monday. The rising pressures could soon make Gaza unlivable, it warned.

The coastal Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas is expected to swell by half a million people by 2020, putting grave new pressures on an already strained area, the U.N. country team found.

Under an Israeli blockade meant to isolate and disarm Hamas, the Gaza economy “is fundamentally unviable,” the U.N. says in its report. Though Israel eased the blockade somewhat two years ago and Gaza's economy has recently grown, the territory remains heavily dependent on outside aid and illegal smuggling to survive. Nearly a third of its people are unemployed.

Israeli leaders say the blockade is needed to stop weapons from reaching Hamas, an Islamic militant group that has refused to recognize Israel. The blockade remains deeply controversial among aid agencies and human rights activists, who argue that it hurts ordinary Gazans.

SERIES: Beyond 7 billion

Gaza is already suffering a shortfall of 71,000 housing units and as many as 250 schools. Over the next eight years, a projected population increase  to 2.1 million from from 1.6 million would require roughly 800 hospital beds and 190 more schools on top of the existing shortfall, the U.N. found.

The boom would also necessitate more than twice as much electricity for Gaza, where people already face regular power cuts, and could irreparably damage the coastal aquifer that supplies almost all of the territory's water. Palestinians in Gaza already consume far more water than flows back into the aquifer, depleting the water supply and causing salt water to leak in at troubling levels.

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