Gaza - Ma'an - Four Palestinian armed groups have confirmed their readiness to retaliate for the Israeli threats to invade the Gaza Strip by forming a joint operations room to coordinate their action.
The 'Homat Al-Aqsa' ('Al-Aqsa Protectors'); the 'Al-Liwaa As-Saroukhi' ('Missiles brigade'); the Martyr Hassan Al-Madhoun brigade; and the 'As-Sa'iqa Al-Wataniya' ('Homeland Strike Force'), who are all part of the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa brigades, announced in a press conference the formation of a joint operation room in order to respond to the expected Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in a coordinated and forceful fashion. They also declared a state of high and comprehensive alert in all areas.
Many female members of the Al-Aqsa brigades also declared in the press conference their readiness to die for the Palestinian cause. "We will be human bombs and we will explode in the face of the occupation," they warned.
The various armed groups also warned Israel that their retaliation will be "harsh," saying that they "will turn the Strip into a cemetery for the Israeli soldiers if they invade." The factions also said that "there is no truce with the Israeli enemy who only knows the language of rifles."
Jerusalem - Ma'an - Fatah has won the student council elections in Al-Quds University, in Abu Dis east of Jerusalem, on Monday. The Fatah movement won 30 seats in the student council; Hamas won 22 seats; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) won four; Islamic Jihad won two; the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) two; and the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) one.
In spite of clashes that erupted between students on Sunday in advance of the elections, in which many students were injured, the university went ahead with the elections.
Fatah spokesman Fahmi Za'arir said that the result of the university elections was evidence that Palestinian students support Fatah's policy.
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The European Union is to pay €21 million (~US $28.5m) in social allowances to Palestinian civilian public service providers through the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM).
The TIM was set up by the European Union in May 2006 to enable donors to continue to present funds to the Palestinian people while bypassing the Palestinian government, which was internationally boycotted following the election victory of Hamas in January 2006. The TIM allowances have been paid to Palestinians since July of last year.
According to a press release from the European Commission office in Jerusalem, more than 77,000 Palestinians will receive NIS 1500 (€270; ~US$367) directly into their bank accounts in this latest allowance. Over a million Palestinians benefit from TIM social allowances, the press release adds.
The press release describes the TIM allowances as "a safety net which enables people to carry on working during the current socio-economic crisis."
The TIM also delivers fuel supplies to hospitals, clinics, waste water and desalination plants, the press release adds.
So far, more than €300 million (~US $407m) have been made available through the TIM. In 2006, EU member states together with the European Commission allocated a total of €700 million (~US $951m) to the Palestinian people.
Hebron – Ma'an – The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the main armed group affiliated to the Fatah movement on Saturday ambushed two cars belonging to Israeli settlers near Mount Hebron in the southern West Bank.
In a statement received by Ma'an, the brigades announced that their resistance fighters targeted the settlers' cars, “and came back safely after injuring and killing settlers”. The statement declared that the operation was in retaliation to Israeli assaults against Palestinian people, “specifically the attempts to transform the Al-Aqsa mosque into a purely Jewish site”.
Ramallah - Ma'an - The European Union has agreed on Friday to contribute €66 million (~US $90m) to UNRWA’s General Fund for 2007.
At a ceremony in Qalandia refugee camp, close to the West Bank city of Ramallah, the head of the European Commission Technical Assistance Office for the West Bank and Gaza Strip (ECTAO), Mr. John Kjaer, and the Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Mr. Filippo Grandi, signed the agreement for €66 million in EU funds. This was an increase of €1.5 million compared to the previous year.
According to a press release from the European Union office in Jerusalem, this figure represents the first instalment in an agreement made between the EU and UNRWA in which the EU pledged €264 million (~US $360m) to support UNRWA's General Fund 2007-2010.
The press release says that these funds will pay salaries for UNRWA’s teachers, doctors and social workers, "enabling UNRWA to maintain delivery of essential services to Palestine refugees."
Speaking at the signing, Mr. Kjaer said: “The EU is highly sensitive to the plight of Palestine's refugees. We recognise that they are amongst the most vulnerable at this time of social and economic crisis. UNRWA has been at the forefront of efforts to help alleviate the daily hardships facing Palestine's refugees, and the EU is proud to support UNRWA's work through this increased contribution. “
Representing UNRWA, Mr. Grandi thanked the EU, saying: “UNRWA’s efforts would not be possible without the on-going support of generous and committed donors. Therefore I would like to extend special appreciation to the European Community. The past year has been a period of great need throughout the Palestine refugee community, and the support you have shown today is a symbol of your interest and concern.”
The press release adds that the financial support of the European Union, as a bloc and from individual member states, represents more than half of UNRWA's total budget.
Nablus - Ma'an - The French government has signed an agreement to provide the Palestinian health ministry with €2.74 million (~US $3.72m) to support psychological healthcare in four cities in the occupied West Bank.
These cities are Nablus, Jenin and Hebron and Ramallah.
According to information from the French consulate general in Jerusalem, this project involves renovation and rehabilitation work to existing centres in Nablus and Jenin. In Hebron, the funds will go towards the creation of a "pilot centre" focusing on the mental health of children and adolescents. In Ramallah, an information centre regarding mental healthcare will be built.
At the signing ceremony in the West Bank city of Nablus, Dr. Anan Al-Masri, the undersecretary of the Palestinian ministry of health, thanked the French government for its efforts in helping the Palestinian people.
He added that he hopes that the French aid will continue, especially in developing the Palestinian hospitals. He mentioned in particular his wish for greater support for the field of psychological healthcare in the cities of Bethlehem and Gaza, where there are already two psychiatric hospitals.
The French consul general, Alain Rémy, assured that his country did not stop providing aid to the Palestinians even if its quality changed recently. He mentioned that the French government sent a number of French doctors to train Palestinian medical crews in treating cancer and in psychological healthcare.
The consul promised to study all the Palestinian needs in the health sector.
The agreement was signed in the Palestinian ministry of health office in Nablus, in the north the occupied West Bank, between the French consul general, Alain Rémy, and Dr Anan Al-Masri, from the Palestinian health ministry.
Jenin - Ma'an – The Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Brigades announced responsibility for a roadside bomb attack on an Israeli bulldozer.
The brigades announced that they detonated a roadside bomb when an Israeli bulldozer was passing Jenin refugee camp.
In a telephone interview with Ma'an, the brigades claimed responsibility for the bomb attack, which took place when Israeli forces were attempting to invade the refugee camp on Friday evening.
The brigades added that the bulldozer was directly hit.
Tulkarem - Ma'an - The anti-narcotics police arrested on Wednesday evening a citizen in the Tulkarem governorate in possession a quantity of marijuana and hashish.
Our correspondent in Tulkarem reported quoting security sources that the arrest operation was part of a campaign launched by the anti-narcotics squad in the occupied West Bank under the banner "Operation Rolling Snowball," which aims to 'cleanse' the Palestinian cities and villages in the West Bank from these substances.
Qalqilia – Ma'an – A Palestinian citizen was shot late on Saturday night in Qalqilia, in the West Bank.
27-year-old Mamdouh Abu Shihab was injured when unknown gunmen shot at him while he was in his shop in the Naqqar neighborhood, in the west of the city.
Security sources reported that the man was injured in the stomach and was transported to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) hospital where he is in a stable condition.
Jericho - Ma'an - An armed Palestinian group affiliated to Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa brigades, has claimed responsibility for opening fire at a group of Israeli settlers on the road between Qalqilya and 'Azzun, in the north west of the occupied West Bank, on Tuesday.
The group, who call themselves 'Fursan Al-Aqsa', which means 'Knights of Al-Aqsa', are reported to be from the West Bank city of Jericho.
The Al-Aqsa brigades said in a statement for Ma'an that the Fursan Al-Aqsa group shot at some Israeli settlers travelling in a car near 'Azzun two days ago. The settlers were injured according to the statement.
The Al-Aqsa brigades said that this operation was in response to the Israeli crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Source: Maan News Agency