Middle East News: World Press Roundup

The Media Line’s Felice Friedson sits down for an interview with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (1). Amnesty International calls for a freeze on arms sales to both Israel and Hamas (2). Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announces that Israel will replace their lead-envoy to the Egyptian-brokered truce talks with Hamas (3), while Al Qaeda’s second-in-command urges Hamas not to ‘succumb to pressure’ for a truce (4). Egypt opens the Rafah crossing for three days, allowing hundreds of Gazans to cross out of the Gaza strip (5). Four Palestinians are killed when a smuggling tunnel on the Egyptian border collapses (6). Talks concerning the formation of a coalition government in Israel continue (8). An op-ed in Asharq Alwasat examines Hamas’ attitude on relations with the U.S. (11).

The Palestinian Perspective: Prime Minister Faya'd in Conversation with TML's Felice Friedson
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Media Line
by Felice Friedson - (Interview) February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

The Media Line’s Felice Friedson conducted an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Faya’d in his Ramallah office on February 19, 2009. Among the issues they discussed were the current state of the Palestinian Authority, the crisis in Gaza, Fatah vs. Hamas, and the future of relations with Israel. TML: Mr. Prime Minister, what is the most serious problem caused by the division of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank: in effect the creation of two Palestinian states?

Israel-Hamas arms embargo urged
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Amnesty International has called for a freeze on arms sales to Israel and Palestinian groups such as Hamas following the recent Gaza conflict. The human rights group said it had evidence both Israel and Hamas had used weapons sourced from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians. It called for the UN Security Council to impose the embargo on all parties. Both Israel and Hamas have rejected the conclusions of the report, in which Amnesty accuses each of war crimes.

Israel replaces envoy to Egypt talks, Hamas angry
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Dan Williams - February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will replace Israel's lead envoy to Egyptian-brokered truce talks with Hamas after he publicly criticized the government's negotiating strategy, officials said on Monday. Amos Gilad, an adviser to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has shuttled to Cairo to try to consolidate the January 18 ceasefire that ended a three-week Israeli assault in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Al Qaeda's Zawahri tells Hamas don't accept truce
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Inal Ersan - February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Al Qaeda's second-in-command urged Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip not to succumb to Arab pressure for a truce with Israel and vowed to support fighting against the Jewish state. The militant leader, in a recording posted on the Internet on Monday, also called on Muslims in Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia to press ahead with fighting "crusaders" -- a term used to denote the West -- and their agents.

Hundreds of Gazans head to Egypt as crossing opens
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Agence France Presse (AFP)
February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Hundreds of people went into and out of the Gaza Strip on Sunday after Egypt opened the Rafah crossing, the enclave's sole crossing that bypasses the Jewish state, a Hamas official told AFP. The Rafah crossing opened at around 9 a.m. and was expected to remain open for three days, said Adel Zurub. After seven hours, some 420 people had left Gaza and 230 entered the Palestinian coastal territory, he added.

Four Palestinians dead in tunnel collapse at Egyptian border
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Agence France Presse (AFP)
February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Four Palestinians were killed on Sunday when a tunnel used for smuggling between the Gaza Strip and Egypt collapsed on top of them, medics said. The victims were between the ages of 17 and 25, they said. The tunnels were thought to have collapsed after torrential downpours that hit the region over the last several days. Smuggling tunnels have mushroomed along the Gaza-Egypt border since 2006, when Israel turned the screws on the impoverished territory in response to the electoral victory of Hamas in legislative polls.

Abbas urges Hamas to form new unity government
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says Hamas should be part of the new government and honour international commitments in the peace process. Abbas says a new cabinet including Hamas should continue the peace process on the basis of previous agreements such as "the existence of two states and no more building of settlements in Gaza". Abbas spoke on Monday after meeting Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Efforts to form a unity government have failed in the past. Reconciliation talks are scheduled to begin in Egypt later this week.

Israelis set more talks on coalition
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel's political rivals Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, meeting yesterday for the first time since the inconclusive Feb. 10 election, agreed to hold further talks about a future government. Netanyahu, head of the hawkish Likud party, was asked Friday by President Shimon Peres to form a new ruling coalition. He has vowed to press on with efforts to persuade centrist leader Livni, Israel's foreign minister, to join him in a government.

Holy Land Christians urge pope to call off visit
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
February 22, 2009 - 1:00am

A group of Palestinian Christians has asked Pope Benedict XVI to call off his planned visit to the Holy Land in May. The 40 community activists wrote to the pope that his visit would help boost Israel's image and inadvertently minimize Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation. The group urged the pope to link his visit to a series of Israeli measures. The letter said this must include improved access to Christian places of worship and halting taxation of church properties.

Defence chiefs urge hawk Netanyahu to strike deal with Syria
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Times
by Uzi Mahnaimi - February 22, 2009 - 1:00am

ISRAEL’S next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will face an early test when he finally takes office in the next few weeks: should he ditch an election pledge and follow his defence chiefs’ strategic advice to explore a peace treaty with Syria? During his campaign Netanyahu, the leader of the conservative Likud party, had struck a belligerent note and pledged he would never agree to Syria’s main demand that the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in the 1967 war, should be returned.

Hamas: Welcoming the Americans
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
by Tariq Alhomayed - (Opinion) February 21, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas considered the visit of a US delegation to Gaza a step in the right direction and it asked the delegation to convey a true image of Israel’s crimes in the Gaza Strip to the US administration.

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