Pope takes armor-plated route into Nazareth

Pope Benedict XVI urged the Christian and Muslim communities of Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city in Israel, to “reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice” as he addressed 40,000 followers on 14 May at his final public Mass in the Holy Land. His message of peace and reconciliation for Nazareth, renowned as the town where Jesus grew up, was delivered amid a heavy Israeli security operation that angered many residents. 

Hamas under scrutiny while Lieberman embraced

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IPS) - A founding member of Hamas says he hates all weapons and insists that his organization is not anti-Jewish. In an interview with IPS, Sayed Abu Musameh described frequent claims in the European and US press that Hamas’s charter is based on enmity towards Jews as a “big lie.” Speaking in the remains of the Palestinian Legislative Council headquarters in Gaza City, Husameh drew a distinction between followers of Judaism and the Zionist ideology to which most politicians in Israel’s main political parties subscribe. 

Pope's visit overlooks Palestinians

Pope Benedict XVI upset the schedule on his first day in Israel by leaving an interfaith meeting in Jerusalem early on Monday night after a leading Muslim cleric called on him to condemn the “slaughter” of women and children in the recent assault on Gaza. The pontiff walked out, a spokesman noted, because Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi’s speech was a “direct negation” of dialogue and damaged the Pope’s efforts at “promoting peace.” 

Obama administration renews Bush-era sanctions on Syria

WASHINGTON (IPS) - US President Barack Obama issued a statement on 8 May calling for the renewal of sanctions on Syria, which were set to expire on Monday. The declaration came at the end of a busy week in which both high-level US officials and the Iranian president visited the Syrian capital, Damascus. Though Syria has recently sought engagement with the US and Israel, the executive order extending sanctions is only the latest in a series of significant stumbling blocks to peeling off one of Iran’s closest regional allies. 

Palestinian Authority popularity at all-time low

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - Yet another sign of the growing unpopularity of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) was evident on the streets of Ramallah last weekend. Demonstrators ripped apart hundreds of posters of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term officially expired in January, that were plastered on walls and buildings along the street leading to the heavily fortified compound known as the Muqata, the PA government headquarters. 

UN chief defends "watered down" Gaza report

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - A detailed 184-page report critical of Israeli attacks on UN personnel and buildings during the Gaza conflict last December-January has been meticulously stripped down to a 27-page document — mostly due to political sensitivities and on security grounds. Responding to charges he had released only a “watered down” version of the report by a four-member UN Board of Inquiry (BoI), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon vehemently denied the accusation. 

Hamas gaining international legitimacy

JERUSALEM (IPS) - Delegations from the rival Fatah and Hamas organizations have again failed in Cairo to bridge their differences meant to usher in a Palestinian unity government, but this has in no way slowed inroads which the Islamist movement has been making to increase its international legitimacy — much to Israel’s concern. 

Egypt's dubious claims spark row with Hizballah

CAIRO (IPS) - Egyptian authorities announced earlier this month the discovery of a Hizballah “cell” allegedly planning to carry out violent operations in Egypt. Although Hizballah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah insists the group was only tasked to assist the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, the government has used the episode to launch a blistering media campaign against the Lebanese Shia resistance group. 

Dahlan comeback to Gaza fails

CAIRO (IPS) - The recent onslaught against the Gaza Strip — and Israel’s failure to achieve its military objectives there — left Palestinian resistance group Hamas politically stronger than ever. Concurrently, it dealt a possible death blow to the faction within Fatah led by strongman Mohammed Dahlan, long known for its closeness to Israel.