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Israel's Foreign Ministry provides Free Internet Tool to online activists


Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs understands that today’s conflicts are won by public opinion. They mobilize pro-Israel activists to be active and voice “Israel’s side to the world.” A software company has developed The Megaphone desktop tool that sends desktop alerts on key articles on Israel and surveys, online polls where activists could click on the button to support Israel and click alerts to easily voice pro-Israel opinions. This tool helps activists to raise the profile of opinions on Israel. EI’s Arjan El Fassed finds this tool also useful for those who would like to see some fair and balanced reports on the Middle East conflict. Pro-human rights and pro-peace activists will find this a useful tool as well. 

Security Council debates UN force in south Lebanon amid more firing near its positions


The United Nations Security Council today discussed the future of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as the force reported further heavy exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) close to its positions in the south of the country. The 15-member body met with countries that contribute troops to UNIFIL before holding consultations that included a briefing by the Director of the Asia and Middle East Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as discussing Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s latest report on the Force, a UN spokesman told reporters. In his report, which was released yesterday, Mr. Annan said the upsurge in violence since 12 July had “radically changed the context” in which the Force operates. 

Illness among children in Gaza rising dramatically – Swedish Sida increases humanitarian support


The crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is so serious that the UN is again pleading for additional emergency relief for the entire civil population. Essential infrastructure has been bombed and there is an acute shortage of clean water, functional sanitation plants and electricity. Most recently, the incidence of illness among children in Gaza has increased dramatically. Likewise, among adults, the incidence of diarrhoea, for example, has increased by 163 percent compared to last year. The UN now fears a widespread outbreak of deadly diseases. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency – Sida – has resolved to contribute an additional SEK 15 million to UN humanitarian efforts in Gaza and on the West Bank. The contribution will finance food supplies, health, sanitation, and education. 

Palestinian refugees trapped in Lebanon are sitting targets for Israeli bombs


Nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees trapped in Lebanon are sitting targets for Israeli bombs, according to Samia Khan, Head of Programmes at NGO Minority Rights Group International. “The Palestinian refugees, some of whom are stateless and many without rights, are prevented from leaving their camps. They have, in effect, become a sitting target for the Israeli bombs,” she says. There are twelve camps for Palestinian refugees across Lebanon, many situated in areas that have been heavily bombed. The camps have existed for nearly 60 years and have developed into urban ghettos indistinguishable from their surroundings – except for restrictions on entry and exit. While camps in Beirut are relatively accessible, in other areas, refugees must have proper identification papers to enter or leave the camps. 

International Crisis Group: Only diplomacy can defuse the crisis in the Middle East


Horrific as it is, the current toll of death and destruction could reach entirely different proportions should a new threshold be crossed. A political solution to the twin crises of Lebanon and Palestine must be the international community’s urgent priority. Waiting and hoping for military action to achieve its purported goals will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences: it will make it much harder to pick up the political pieces when the guns fall silent. A new report launched by the International Crisis Group pieces together the strands of this multi-headed crisis in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon and elsewhere, based on talks with officials and others, including Hamas and Hizbollah representatives. 

Israel used disproportionate force in Gaza, says UN humanitarian chief


The top United Nations aid official said today that Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip is a “disproportionate use of force” but he again emphasized that all sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were guilty of violating humanitarian law. Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, made his comments while on a visit to Gaza as part of his continuing humanitarian mission to the region, from where he will travel to northern Israel tomorrow to see the destruction caused by Hezbollah rockets. “This was clearly a disproportionate use of force,” he said during a visit that included a health clinic damaged by Israeli incursions last week. 

Annan ‘shocked’ by Israeli attack on UN Lebanon post


Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed shock and deep distress over what he called the “apparently deliberate targeting” by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) of a United Nations observer post in southern Lebanon that has killed two military observers, with two more feared dead.”I call on the Government of Israel to conduct a full investigation into this very disturbing incident and demand that any further attack on UN positions and personnel must stop,” Mr. Annan after hearing of the attack on the post of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Rome, where he arrived today for talks on the explosion of violence in the Middle Eastern country. 

One week of war: Every decision is a gamble


I turned on the radio in the kitchen to listen to ‘Sawt al Shaab,’ the communist station that provides updates on the situation, interspersed with nationalist music. Fairuz came in over the static, singing about what a wonderful place Lebanon is. All of a sudden her voice cracks with static and morphs into the robotic voice of a man speaking Hebrew-accented Arabic. It is the same recording that my aunt heard on the phone at 4 am. I jiggle the antenna, trying to get away from his creepy pronouncements but there is no escape. I turn off the radio and leave the kitchen. 

Fighting for survival, not hatred of Jews


To the world, Israel left Gaza. To the Palestinians, Israel still occupies Gaza but from outside, turning Gaza into an open-air prison. Israel claims it is seeking peace. Yet, behind that PR image, Israel is engaged in Arab home demolitions, torture, imprisonment of Arabs without charge or trial, land grabbing and illegal Jewish-only settlements connected to Israel with Jewish-only bypass roads slicing Arab land into Bantustans. We hear Israel condemning terrorism, but Palestinians see them openly revere, celebrate and reward Israeli terrorists. To see beyond the false image that Israel portrays on the world stage, please read the eyewitness accounts and articles on www.electronicintifada.net. 

Pity the living and the days to come


Everything in Beirut was so calm I even went home for lunch. There were ongoing airstrikes on the south but no reports of causalities yet. Kinda wanted to come with me to the office when she saw that I was going back there. The minute we reached the street, we heard the sounds of four huge consecutive explosions. I don’t remember what I did - maybe I jumped - but when I looked at Kinda she was pale. It took her two seconds to get back down to earth and say the magic words “boom boom ha ha”. And she kept repeating that for five minutes, automatically. She was not smiling. She was asking, “Boom boom ha ha ?”.