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Inside the Middle East
July 13, 2011
Posted: 941 GMT
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May 17, 2011
Posted: 1220 GMT
Palestinian protesters infiltrate the Israel-Syria border on May 15 near the Druze village of Majdal Shams. Reportedly at least twelve were killed and several injured when Israeli soldiers opened fire on protesters AFP/ Getty Images.
Palestinian protesters infiltrate the Israel-Syria border on May 15 near the Druze village of Majdal Shams. Reportedly at least twelve were killed and several injured when Israeli soldiers opened fire on protesters AFP/ Getty Images.

Clashes between pro-Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces erupted along Israel's borders and occupied territories Sunday, leaving at least 12 dead on a Palestinian mourning day marking the birth of the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried what he called "violent demonstrations" aimed at undermining Israel's existence.

"We hope for the peace and restfulness to return quickly, but no one should be mistaken - we are determined to defend our borders and our sovereignty," Netanyahu said.

The conflicts broke out on "Nakba Day." Nakba - Arabic for "catastrophe" - marks the period when more than 700,000 Arabs were displaced from their homes during fighting that followed the creation of Israel in 1948.

Two protesters were killed and 170 were wounded Sunday when fighting broke out in the Golan Heights area, the Syrian Arab News Agency said. And at least 10 were killed and 112 others were injured in clashes along the line of demarcation with Lebanon, Lebanon's state news agency reported. Read more...

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Filed under: Israel •Lebanon •Netanyahu •Palestinians •Syria


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May 6, 2011
Posted: 840 GMT

 

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Will Osama bin Laden's death weaken extremists? Or does it make the region more dangerous, especially for Israel?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: No, it weakens extremists. When the world's number one terrorist, a man who's responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people is brought to justice and is eliminated, it tells terrorists everywhere there's a price and you will pay it and that's good.

VERJEE: Was President Obama right not to release the photo?

NETANYAHU: Probably.

VERJEE: Why?

NETANYAHU: He probably has his reasons. I haven't seen the photos but I think it's immaterial (ph). I don't think that anyone really questions the fact that Osama bin Laden has been killed. I think that's a safe fact.

VERJEE: Who would you consider today, the world's most dangerous man, the biggest threat to the world's security after bin Laden?

NETANYAHU: The biggest threat is the possibility of the militant Islamic regime will acquire nuclear weapons or that nuclear weapons will acquire a militant Islamic regime. The first is called Iran. If the Iranian regime gets atomic bombs, it'll change history.

VERJEE: Do you think Ahmadinejad is the biggest threat?

NETANYAHU: I think he's a big threat. I think his boss, Khamenei is a bigger threat. Iran is (ph) the country and he's infused with fanaticism - he wants to get the whole lot – he calls us Israel, "the little Satan" because America is "the great Satan" and I hope that Europe and Britain aren't offended because they're a middle-sized Satan. So all these statements have to be eliminated and, if necessary, they're developing atomic bombs for that affair (ph).

VERJEE: So why haven't you taken action, a targeted action against Iran if you're convinced it needs to be eliminated?

NETANYAHU: Well, because one of the things that we've looked at is the leadership of the international community, led by the United States, to force that regime to stop its nuclear bombs program. I think the sanctions might work if the international community makes it clear that there's a credible military option if the sanctions don't work. And I think that the coupling of those two things - economic sanctions and a military option if sanctions don't work - that's the only thing that will make this regime stop. And I hope to see that determination (ph) in place.

VERJEE: There's a government now that represents all Palestinians in a unity government. Why won't you accept that?

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Filed under: Hamas •Iran •Israel •Netanyahu •Palestinians •Video


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April 17, 2011
Posted: 955 GMT
Vittorio Arrigoni at the port in Gaza City celebrating the arrival of the ship Dignity that departed from Cyprus to protest against the Israeli sanctions. A Salafist group of radical Islamists killed the Italian activist after kidnapping him in Gaza Getty Images AFP.
Vittorio Arrigoni at the port in Gaza City celebrating the arrival of the ship Dignity that departed from Cyprus to protest against the Israeli sanctions. A Salafist group of radical Islamists killed the Italian activist after kidnapping him in Gaza Getty Images AFP.

An Italian humanitarian activist and journalist who was kidnapped in Gaza has been found dead and one person is in custody, the Hamas Interior Ministry said Friday in a statement.

Police investigating the case learned where 36-year-old Vittorio Arrigoni was being held and went to the location, where they found the body, the statement said.

An autopsy revealed that he had been killed hours before police entered the location, it said.
Medical sources said his body was taken to Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

The grisly outcome came hours after a video was posted on YouTube showing a man identified by his colleagues as Arrigoni. A black blindfold covered his eyes; his right cheek appeared red as though it had been hit; his hands appeared to be bound behind his back. A hand belonging to someone outside of the view of the lens appeared to be grasping his hair on the back and pointing the captive's head toward the camera. Read more...

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Filed under: Gaza •Hamas •Palestinians


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April 5, 2011
Posted: 1942 GMT
Palestinian youths mourn the death of Arab-Jewish actor and director Juliano Mer-Khamis (poster) outside The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank
Palestinian youths mourn the death of Arab-Jewish actor and director Juliano Mer-Khamis (poster) outside The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank

Thousands gathered in the West Bank Tuesday in memorials for noted Israeli Palestinian actor, director, and political activist Juliano Mer-Khamis.

Mer-Khamis, 53, was gunned down Monday outside the Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp – an institution he helped found to introduce Palestinian children to the performing arts.

His death at the hands of an unknown masked gunman, sent shock waves through Jenin and the artistic community in both the West Bank and Israel where his work in local theatre was well-known.

Born to an Israeli-Jewish mother and a Palestinian Christian father, Mer-Khamis believed theatre and music could be used to empower Palestinian children to fight against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The theatre opened its doors in 1988 in the middle of the first Palestinian intifada and amidst several closures, attacks, and robberies managed to stay in operation teaching thousands of Palestinians children.

In a 2008 video Mer-Khamis described the Freedom Theatre project as “a venue to join the Palestinian people for their struggle for their liberation”

“We believe that the third intifada, the coming intifada should be a cultural intifada with theatre, music, cameras and magazines.” he said.

“We hope this theatre will generate a political artist movement of artists who will raise their voice against women discrimination, against children discrimination, against violence, unnecessary violence against civilians, to bring back a just cause – we are not terrorists. To me freedom is The Freedom Theatre"

Palestinian police say they have arrested several men in connection with the shooting but have not named a suspect.

The Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was quick to condemn Mer-Khamis’s death saying “This despicable crime will not be tolerated under any circumstances; it constitutes a severe violation of our principles and values and goes against our peoples’ morals and beliefs in co-existence.”

Mer-Khamis is survived by his wife and two children from a previous marriage.

In a testimonial to their former mentor a group of current Freedom Theatre students wrote “your children are going to stay, following your path on the way to the freedom battle, and we will go on with your revolution’s promise, the Jasmine revolution.”

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Filed under: Culture •Hamas •Israel •Palestinians


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March 29, 2011
Posted: 1643 GMT

In the preceding post we wrote about the controversy over the Facebook group page that called for a third Palestinian intifada.  Now Facebook has pulled down the page in question. For more read our story here.

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Filed under: Israel •Palestinians •Social Media


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March 28, 2011
Posted: 1724 GMT
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a company event November 15, 2010 (Getty)
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a company event November 15, 2010 (Getty)

After publicly calling for the removal of a Facebook page it said promoted "wild incitement," the Israeli government says it is now satisfied that the social media giant is effectively monitoring the "Third Palestinian Intifada" group page for compliance with its terms of service.

Gal Ilan, a spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, told CNN that following a letter of complaint sent last week to Facebook founder and chairman Mark Zuckerberg by Minister Yuli Edelstein, the internet company had done a better job at policing and removing content that in some instances promoted "the killing of Israelis and Jews and the 'liberating' of Jerusalem and of Palestine through acts of violence."

In that letter Edelstein wrote:

"As Facebook's CEO and founder you are obviously aware of the site's great potential to rally the masses around good causes, and we are all thankful for that. However, such potential comes hand in hand with the ability to cause great harm such as in the case of the wild incitement...I turn to you with the request that you order the immediate removal of this Facebook page. I write to you not only in my capacity as Israel's Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs who is charged with monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, but as someone who believes in the values of free speech, and knows that there is a difference between freedom of expression and incitement. "

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Filed under: Israel •Palestinians •Social Media


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March 26, 2011
Posted: 900 GMT
Palestinian relatives of Dirar Abu Sisi attend a Gaza demonstration calling for his release from an Israeli jail on Tuesday.
Palestinian relatives of Dirar Abu Sisi attend a Gaza demonstration calling for his release from an Israeli jail on Tuesday.

Jerusalem (CNN) - In the latest chapter of an unfolding story that reads like a spy thriller, a Palestinian engineer who was allegedly abducted by Israeli intelligence services in the Ukraine over a month ago will be kept in custody for at least another week after an Israeli court ruling.

After being held for over 30 days in an Israeli jail under mysterious circumstances, Dirar Abu Sisi's incarceration will last at least one more week after a judge in a Petach Tikvah court Thursday granted an Israeli government request to keep Abu Sisi behind bars in order for the state to produce evidence against him.

"This request means that Israel does not have, even after 34 days of interrogation, sufficient evidence to indict Dirar Abu Sisi with any offense under Israeli law and under these circumstances we argue that he should be released, " Abu Sisi's attorney Smadar Ben-Natan told CNN following his court appearance.

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Filed under: Gaza •Hamas •Israel •Palestinians


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March 18, 2011
Posted: 1505 GMT



Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel meets with Piers Morgan(Getty)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel meets with Piers Morgan(Getty)

In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out the possibility that his government would ever negotiate with a Palestinian government that included the Islamist group Hamas.

“Can you imagine a peace deal with Al Qaeda? Of course not.” Netanyahu told Morgan in Jerusalem. “What am I going to negotiate with them? The method of our decapitation? The method of their exterminating us? Of course not"

The vocal opposition from Netanyahu comes amidst Palestinians efforts to end the bitter political divide between their two main political parties.

Wednesday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to visit the Gaza Strip immediately in an effort to end the internal political division between his Fatah party and the Hamas faction which rules in Gaza.

That move followed an invitation from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who extended the invitation to Abbas as tens of thousands of protestors both in the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets demanding political unity.

Israel has long rejected the idea of direct negotiations with Hamas which it regards as a terrorist organization but Netanyahu’s comments signal what appears to be a new Israeli push to prevent Abbas from striking deal that would include Hamas in any future Palestinian government.

Friday’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli officials were working to convince the United States and other nations that any Hamas role in a government would attest to the Palestinian’s lack of interest in peace.

The division between Fatah and Hamas began in 2006 when the Islamist party won parliamentary elections and worsened a year later when Hamas seized power in Gaza from Fatah in a violent coup. Repeated attempts at negotiating a political rapprochement have failed .

While few are holding their breath that this latest effort at reconciliation will bear fruit there is considerably more pressure being brought to bear on both factions. Taking a page from protestors in Egypt and Tunisia internet savvy Palestinians have been using social media to organize increasing numbers to demonstrate publicly for reconciliation.

Independent lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti says recent demonstrations represent a new and important youth movement in Palestinian society.

"What you see is the beginning of change, what you see is the voice of the young people and the silent majority among the Palestinians which are pressuring both Fatah and Hamas to end this terrible division, to end this internal competition about an authority which does not exist because it is all under occupation," Barghouti said. "You see the voice of the Palestinian majority asking for democracy back and asking for unity, which is the only way to end occupation and the suffering of the people."

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Filed under: CNN Coverage •Fatah •Gaza •Hamas •Israel •Netanyahu •Palestinians •West Bank


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February 13, 2011
Posted: 815 GMT
Erakat, who presided over several rounds of peace talks with Israel, tendered his resignation on February 12, 2011, AFP/Getty images .
Erakat, who presided over several rounds of peace talks with Israel, tendered his resignation on February 12, 2011, AFP/Getty images .

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat has stepped down from his post, saying he did so because he felt responsible that controversial documents were stolen from his office but not because of how Middle East peace talks have unfolded.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of Erakat, a longtime face of the Palestinian movement. Mohammed Shtayeh, a senior negotiator and a member of Fatah's central committee, told CNN on Saturday that the move came after an investigating committee determined that documents were leaked and stolen from Erakat's office.
Erakat told CNN on Saturday that he was simply following through on his earlier offer to quit if the Palestinian probe determined as much. But the longtime Palestinian political figure insisted that his decision stemmed only from that fact, and not what was offered in the actual negotiations.
"I'm a person who has devoted his life to building institutions of transparency, accountability and the rule of law," Erakat said, explaining why he felt obliged to step down. "My resignation doesn't have anything to do with the substance of negotiations."
Previously, Erakat had accused TV network Al-Jazeera of taking parts of the controversial documents out of context and, in some cases, blatantly manipulating them. On Saturday, he continued to blast the Qatar-based network. Read more...

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Filed under: Fatah •Palestinians •West Bank


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