Middle East

Hamas says Palestinian parliament to remain until new elections

Gaza City  - Hamas said Tuesday that the current Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in which it has a majority of seats would continue to exist until new elections can be held, despite its four-year term running out on January 24.

Ahmed Bahar, the council's deputy speaker for Hamas, told a news conference in Gaza City his movement rejected a proposal to merge the parliament with the Palestinian Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

"The Legislative Council (PLC) will exist and act until new presidential and legislative elections are held in the Palestinian territories," said Bahar, in an announcement unlikely to be accepted by Hamas' main rival, the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Five die of swine flu in West Bank

Five die of swine flu in West BankRamallah - Five Palestinians have died of the swine flu virus in different town in the West Bank in recent days, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced Monday.

They are the first Palestinians fatalities of the virus.

A further 100 Palestinians are infected with the virus and are receiving treatment in West Bank hospitals, As'ad el-Ramlawi, the ministry's director of first aid, said in a statement.

He said one two of the fatalities came from Nablus, one from Ramallah, one form Hebron and one from Bethlehem.

Obama envoy meeting Netanyahu in bid to revive Mideast peace talks

Obama envoy meeting Netanyahu in bid to revive Mideast peace talksJerusalem  - President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy held talks Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of an intense and ongoing - but so far unsuccessful - US bid to revive broken-off peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Mitchell arrived Thursday to prepare for a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, her first to Israel since the Netanyahu government took office in March.

Obama to Mideast: "History shows us what is possible"

Jerusalem  - US President Barack Obama called Tuesday for people in the Middle East to look toward the possibilities of a future where the region has moved past its current strife.

"Consider what can be achieved if we moved beyond our differences," he said in a video address to a conference in Israel, "if a secure Israel and independent Palestine are at peace, Arab states commit to genuine reconciliation, if new partnerships were forged across the region to advance health and education, clean energy and innovation, if we overcome the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction."

Obama urged against pessimism, even amid the currently stalled Middle East peace process.

US: UN should look at Gaza war crimes report fairly

United StatesGeneva  - The US told the United Nations Human Rights Council Thursday that it should deal fairly with a war crimes report on the conflict which took place in the Gaza Strip last December and January.

"The report raises important issues and serious allegations and the United States has serious concerns about many of its conclusions and recommendations which are, in our view, flawed," said Douglas Griffiths, a US envoy to Geneva.

He, however, called on the council to look into the allegations made into the report.

Fayyad: Palestinians don't want "Mickey Mouse" state

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam FayyadRamallah  - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Wednesday that the Palestinians want no "Mickey Mouse" state in a small part of the West Bank.

The new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu should "explain exactly what kind of state it is talking about" when the hardline premier said in June he was willing to accept a demilitarized Palestinian state, Fayyad told a news conference in Ramallah.

No concessions from Abbas; Erekat regrets Goldstone decision

No concessions from Abbas; Erekat regrets Goldstone decision Ramallah/Tel Aviv  - Positions between the Palestinians and Israel remained intractable Friday despite the surprise naming of US President Barack Obama as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

During a meeting with Obama's Middle East representative George Mitchell, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected any concessions to get the peace talks going again.

Palestinians drum up support for UN debate on Goldstone report

United NationsNew York  - Palestinian officials on Thursday called on UN Security Council members to discuss the controversial report on fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip when they meet next week for a session on the Middle East.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki visited UN headquarters to hold talks with Arab states, which also support a debate in the 15-nation council on the report by South African Judge Richard Goldstone.

US envoy hopes for early relaunch of Mideast peace talks

George MitchellJerusalem  - US President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East said Thursday he hoped his latest shuttle mission in the region would edge Israelis and Palestinians closer toward a rapid revival of long-stalled peace talks.

"We're going to continue with our efforts to achieve an early relaunch of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," Senator George Mitchell told reporters before a private meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.

Obama envoy in Tel Aviv for fresh round of Middle East talks

Obama envoy in Tel Aviv for fresh round of Middle East talksTel Aviv  - George Mitchell, US President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, was due Thursday to begin fresh talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders - as part of an intensive US effort to revive peace talks between the sides.

Israeli media cited a senior US official saying Washington's demand for a moratorium of Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank was "not off the table."

"Our position on settlements has not changed," the official said, contrary to earlier reports.

Israeli-Palestinian armed clash reported on Gaza Strip border

Israeli-Palestinian armed clash reported on Gaza Strip border Tel Aviv/Gaza  - Several Palestinians were wounded Tuesday in an armed clash with Israeli soldiers on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources said.

An Israeli army spokesman said Israeli civilians working in the area had been shot at by Palestinian militants, and Israeli soldiers accompanying the workers returned fire.

The Israeli spokesman declined to confirm reports by Palestinian witnesses that Israeli armoured vehicles had then advanced into an area just outside Gaza City.  dpa

Jordan's king blasts Israel's "provocative" measures in Jerusalem

King Abdullah II of JordanAmman  - King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday condemned Israel's "provocative measures" in East Jerusalem and called for "immediate" action by the world community to force the Jewish state to halt its violations of the sanctity of al-Aqsa Mosque.

The monarch made the remarks as he presided over an emergency meeting of Jordan's National Council of Policies (NCP) to discuss the latest unilateral Israeli measures in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war.

Fatah, Hamas to sign reconciliation deal on October 25

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul GheitAmman  - A reconciliation agreement between the feuding Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas is to be signed in Cairo on October 25, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Monday.

Abul Gheit made the announcement after a meeting in Amman with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which was also attended by head of the Egyptian Intelligence Department Omar Suleiman.

Jordan totally backs Egypt's efforts to end Palestinian feuds

Jordan totally backs Egypt's efforts to end Palestinian feuds Amman - Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday conferred with two senior Egyptian officials who relayed to him a message from President Hosny Mubarak dealing with Cairo's efforts to work out a reconciliation between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

Clashes break out in Jerusalem after holy site closed

Jerusalem - Israel police battled bottle-throwing Palestinians in East Jerusalem Sunday, after Israeli authorities closed the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif compound to visitors and Muslim worshippers, for fear of riots.

A police spokesman said one constable was lightly injured, and three rioters were arrested in the incident, which broke out after worshippers finished prayers in Wadi Joz, adjacent to the Old City of Jerusalem.

The flashpoint Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, in Jerusalem's Old City, is holy to Muslims, who believe it marks the spot from where Mohammed ascended to heaven, and holy to Jews, as it marks the spot on where their biblical Temple once stood.

Hamas official: Prisoner deal with Israel could happen within weeks

Jerusalem  - Negotiations for a prisoner exchange between Israel and the radical Palestinian Hamas movement are to continue in the coming weeks, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud al- Sahar, told Israeli radio Sunday.

On Friday, Israel released 20 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a video showing captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, 23, alive. The 2.42-minute video is the first to be released since his capture some three years ago.

Al-Sahar told Israeli radio that a new round of negotiations under German mediation would centre around among others matters, that of 125 prisoners, whose release Israel has thus far rejected. They are among the 450 prisoners Hamas wants Israel to release.

Resolution at UN on Goldstone report deferred to March

Justice Richard GoldstoneJerusalem/Geneva/Gaza  - The Palestinian Authority, along with Islamic and African states, announced Friday they would defer until March next year voting at the UN Human Rights Council on adopting the war crimes report of Justice Richard Goldstone.

The Geneva-based body had been expected to vote on a draft resolution that would have condemned Israel for not cooperating with the fact finding mission.

The resolution would have also endorsed Goldstone's call for the UN General Assembly or Security Council to follow up on the investigations into alleged violations.

Israel to seal off West Bank from midnight

Israel to seal off West Bank from midnight Tel Aviv  - Israel will close off the West Bank from midnight Thursday until October 10, the Israeli military spokesman announced Thursday afternoon.

The closure will last for the duration of the Jewish festival of Sukkot (booths), which begins at sundown Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday October 10.

A statement from the military spokesman's office said that persons in need of medical care will not be affected by the closure.

IMF: Middle East recovering from oil shocks, financial crisis

IMF: Middle East recovering from oil shocks, financial crisis Istanbul  - Middle Eastern economies are on the rebound as oil prices are back on the rise and the global financial crisis is easing, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Thursday.

In its semi-annual World Economic Outlook, the IMF revised upwards its growth forecasts for a region that has been hard-hit in the past year by the crash in oil prices and a crisis that struck financial centres in Bahrain and Dubai.

Meshaal: Inter-reconciliation deal to be signed in Cairo in October

Islamic Hamas chief Khaled MeshaalGaza/Cairo  - Islamic Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal announced Monday that Egypt will call for a national Palestinian convention in Cairo in October to sign an inter-Palestinian reconciliation accord.

After a meeting with Egypt's intelligence chief Omer Suleiman, Meshaal told a news conference in Cairo that a final draft of the Egyptian initiative is to be presented in October to end the Palestinians' division.

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