South News Aug 22 
Palestinians counter boycott Israel 

Retaliating for Israel's choke hold on the West Bank and Gaza Strip the Palestinian Authority began an economic and political boycott of Israel in a bid to force Israel to back off its tough sanctions. In a determined counter move the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat commenced a consumer boycott of Israeli goods this week and openly rejected Israeli "dictates" that he arrest scores of opposition militants 

The consumer embargo began Monday in the Gaza Strip when Palestinian police began turning away Israeli trucks headed for the coast. In the West Bank, enforcement of the consumer boycott began Thursday. The shekel fell in the Israeli currency market, in response to the news. The representative rate for the US dollar was fixed at 3.5400 shekels compared with 3.5340 on Wednesday. 

In Jericho, inspectors moved from shop to shop to register the inventory of Israeli goods. In Hebron, Palestinian police set up a checkpoint at the northern entrance to town, and stopped trucks with Israeli plates. Municipal inspectors moved from shop to shop to write down the amount of Israeli goods on shelves. Merchants were told they could sell what they had, but could not buy more Israeli products. 

The products to be boycotted include cookies, electrical appliances, soft drinks, cigarettes, fruits, toilet paper and milk. Palestinian consumers were informed of the boycott with announcements in newspapers and on local TV stations. About $9 million worth of Israeli goods are imported into the West Bank and Gaza Strip daily, according to Palestinian figures. With the boycott and embargo of Israeli goods, the Palestinians hope to retaliate for the closure and make the Palestinian economy less dependent on Israeli goods. 

The embargo coincided with "national unity dialogue" between the Palestinian Authority and opposition groups, including the Muslim militant group Hamas to present a united Palestinian front against the policies of Israel's government. 

In Ramallah Arafat met with representatives of the main movements opposed to his peace agreements with Israel, including representatives of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad on Thursday. He held a similar meeting Wednesday in Gaza. " He appealed to the groups for unity in the face of harsh Israeli sanctions which followed the July 30 bombing and reaffirmed that his aim remained to achieve a "peace of the brave" with Israel despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing policies. 

After the Jerusalem bombing, Israel sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, disrupting trade and barring tens of thousands of Palestinians from jobs in Israel. and cost the Palestinian economy millions of dollars each day in lost trade and wages. It froze taxes and custom duties owed the Authority under a 1994 economic protocol. 

The tactics appear to be working with Israel handing over Thursday part of the tax and customs money "About 42 million shekels ($12 million), which is about 23 percent of the money we deserve, has been transferred to the Palestinian Authority accounts." Said Awaida, general director of the Palestinian Finance Ministry, told Reuters: "According to the agreement this money is to be transferred monthly but the delay came as a political decision aimed at pressuring the Palestinian Authority and weakening it," Awaida said. President Yasser Arafat has called the unfreezing of part of the funds a good start but not enough. 

Foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League, which has condemned as a declaration of war Israel's security crackdown in Palestinian self-rule areas, are due to meet next month. Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have already announced they will boycott the fourth Middle East and North Africa economic summit (MENA) due to be held in Qatar in November if Israel is represented. Egypt, Jordan and Morocco have expressed hesitation about attending. 

Syria and Lebanon, which with Iraq and Libya stayed away from the three previous MENA summits, have also said they would boycott the controversial Doha event. Saudi Arabia has urged the Qataris to cancel the meeting and Syria has called on other Arab states also to boycott it. 

Meanwhile Algeria pledged to send emergency financial aid to the Palestinian Authority to help it endure the Israeli blockade of Palestinian territories. A foreign ministry statement on the official Algerian news agency APS on August 21 did not give any figure but said it was to help the authority meet pressing needs resulting from the blockade. The ministry spokesman said: "This decision bears witness to Algeria's constant support for the just Palestinian cause and aims to help ease the trial being endured by the Palestinian people, harshly affected by arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Israeli administration." 

Next week a four-day symposium "Ending 30 years of occupation -- the role of NGOs" will be held from 25 to 28 August at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The meeting, being convened under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and in accordance with General Assembly resolutions will be chaired by representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Palestine Rights Committee considers that NGOs can make an important contribution in support of the efforts of the international community at this stage of the peace process. 

Alert: Israel readying hit squads 

Israel attacks economic targets in Lebanon 

Israeli jets bombed an electricity pylon in southern Lebanon, downing lines from the power plant at Jiye, 15 miles south of Beirut. Hundreds of Lebanese homes and businesses lost their electricity in Israeli raids 75 miles into Lebanon, a country which is still trying to recover from its 1975-90 civil war. The attack on the power lines was the first Israeli military strike on Lebanese economic installations since its large incursion into Lebanon in April 1996. 

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri denounced the raids and accused Israel of fueling instability in the Middle East. said it was retaliating for Monday's bombardment of Sidon by Israeli-backed Lebanese militiamen which killed six civilians and wounded 35. The shelling was the bloodiest attack on the Sidon area since Israeli forces mounted a 17-day offensive last year dubbed ``Operation Grapes of Wrath'' in which about 200 Lebanese civilians were killed in the south 

That attack prompted rare public criticism of the militia from Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's adviser David Bar-Illan said Israel "cannot sanction this kind of indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas." While, Israel blamed Monday's attack on a "rogue commander" said that it has no plans to remove the commander of an Israeli-backed militia in south Lebanon who ordered his artillery to shell Sidon. The Israeli military said planes dropped bombs near a Lebanese army artillery battery that Monday had fired toward the Jezzine area, an enclave controlled by Israeli-backed militia chief Antoine Lahd just north of Israel's occupation zone. Militiamen led by Lahd shelled Sidon after an explosion killed the 11-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son of Lahd's late commander in Jezzine, Assad Nasr. 

Hrawi told a number of Lebanese Members of Parliament (MPs) during a meeting held in Lebanon on August 18 that "what has taken place in Sidon is part of an incessant plot concocted against Lebanon." Hrawi said contacts were already made with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz and the leadership of Lebanon's army to discuss the Sidon attacks and counter measures. 

Hariri, visiting victims of the Sidon shelling in hospitals, said: "The ongoing Israeli aggression on Lebanon shows that this state does not want peace..." "If (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's government does not change its policy toward peace and toward Arabs and Palestinians, the region will remain a field of violence and non-stability," he said. Lebanese Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul said: "The air raids against stable villages in the Bekaa and along the Lebanese coast all fall under the terrorist and criminal pattern of action that Israel adopts." 

Growing concerns over the latest Israeli activity in Lebanon spread to other Arab states and drew condemnation. "Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon and the continuous attacks on its cities and villages is an ongoing aggression on Lebanon's sovereignty," Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told reporters in Cairo. 

Khaled Sufiani, the Secretary General of the Moroccan Society for Supporting the Palestinian Struggle, said the Syrian president's statement that, "We are peace advocates and not surrender seekers" is the right stand to take for the Arab nations. Al-Sufiani called upon Arabs to reactivate the Arab boycott of Israel, to halt all forms of dealing with it and to adopt a united stand against Israel's "flagrant intransigence" in peace negotiations. 

The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a ststement said he was disturbed at reports of renewed hostilities in southern Lebanon. He was particularly concerned at the targeting of civilians, notably the killing of two youths by a roadside bomb in Kfar Houne and the subsequent shelling of the town of Sidon, with six reported killed and many more injured. 

Israeli companies sold arms to Iran 

Several Israeli arms companies regularly sold military products to Iran during the 1990s, Israeli public television reported Thursday. Israeli businessman Nahum Manbar, who has been charged with "collusion with the enemy" for selling to Iran materiel for chemical arms production, is being tried behind closed doors by a Tel Aviv court. 

When Iran was ruled by the Shah, the Jewish state was one of the country's main arms suppliers. Manbar's lawyer Avi Richman said companies such as Elbit, which specialized in electronics, Shalon and Rabitex sold military materiel to Iran through his client. The television channel said that Manbar was arrested under U.S. pressure and that he was "far from being the only one" involved in the transactions with Iran. 

Manbar said the Israeli authorities knew of his activities in Iran. A defense ministry spokesman said that all sales destined for Iran had been frozen since 1979, after the Shah was overthrown and the Islamic republic was set up. Reserve General Avraham Bar David, a defense ministry consultant specializing in exports, said it was practically impossible to export arms without defense ministry knowledge. Other important arms companies such as El-Op and Sultant also engaged in negotiations with Iranian intermediaries for contracts that were not concluded, the television channel said. 

Some of the deals were carried out with false certificates saying the materiel for export was going to Poland, not to Iran, the television station added. The television report had been submitted to the military censor, it added. 

All the companies concerned officially denied the report, but the television station said versions given "off camera" by officials from the companies were "very different." In theory, all Israeli arms exports, or even negotiations on concluding arms deals, must be approved by the defense ministry agency SIBAT. 

"If someone wants to overrule a ban, the authorities don't hesitate to make it known and in a sometimes brutal manner," Bar David added without providing further details. According to the parts of the bill of indictment made public, Manbar earned $16 million between 1991 and 1994 by selling to Iran the technology and materiel which could help it to produce mustard and nerve gas. Manbar, who has been living in France since 1985, was secretly arrested March 27 as he emerged from an aircraft in Tel Aviv. His detention was only revealed April 16. 

U.S starts war games in Korea 

The United States and South Korea on Monday launched joint military exercises to test their preparedness against threats from North Korea, a Seoul Defense Ministry spokesman said. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Dong-jin called a simulated emergency meeting of military commanders while ministry officials prepared for an urgent security consultation meeting with the United States, he said. 

The annual maneuvers, code-named Ulchi Focus Lens, would feature computer-simulated war games and involve tens of thousands of South Korean troops as well as 16,500 U.S. soldiers, military officials said. A Defense Ministry statement said this year's exercise was upgraded to include "situation drills aimed at improving capability in a real crisis." About 655,000 South Korean troops, backed by 37,000 U.S. servicemen, confront North Korea's 1.1 million-strong army across the world's last Cold War frontier 

"The danger of reckless provocation has increased because of growing uncertainty caused by North Korea's food crisis," it said. In parallel with the war games, due to last until Aug. 29, South Korea is holding a government-level command post exercise and air-raid drills involving citizens 

To make the exercises more real, 28 fighter jets, posing as enemy planes, will appear unannounced over 40 South Korean cities, a military spokesman said. "Ulchi Focus Lens is designed to evaluate and improve combined and joint coordination, procedures, plans and systems necessary for the conduct of contingency operations of the Republic of Korea and the U.S. government in the defence of the Republic of Korea," a U.S. military spokesman said. 

North Korea has criticised the United States and South Korea for planning Ulchi Focus Lens, describing the exercise "an extremely threatening act.""They (the U.S. and South Korea) are talking peace but if they are going to act against the process with these war drills, then there is no reason for communication and the talks have no meaning," a North Korean spokesman said earlier this month. 

U.S. at work on New Nuclear Arms 

The United States is at work on new or modified designs for nuclear weapons, even though the Cold War has ended, The New York Times reported Monday. The report cites a formerly secret Energy Department document that the Times said showed the United States was undermining a treaty intended to halt innovations in making weapons of mass destruction. 

Energy Department officials denied the assertion, saying the work complied with the international treaty. The officials said the work was only being undertaken to modernize old weapon designs, the paper said. The document was quoted as saying the work exercised a broad range of design skills, including steps toward redesigning the heart of the hydrogen bomb. The argument goes to the heart of the extent to which the nuclear powers keep their ageing stockpiles of bombs and missiles in fighting trim while they are forbidden by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty from testing them, even underground. 

The document was obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington arms-control watchdog group,. and turned over to the Times, the newspaper said. America 'flouted test-ban treaty to upgrade its nuclear arsenal' The test-ban treaty, signed by 146 nations, was endorsed last year by the United Nations with the goal of halting the development of all new weapons of mass destruction. President Clinton hailed the pact as a technological barrier that would end the arms race. 

Matthew McKinzie, a nuclear physicist with the council, pounced on an admission in the documents that America's weapons laboratories are working on ways to provide "new or modified designs" for weapons. Dr McKinzie said such work could be intended only to increase the power and precision of warheads and to improve their ability to penetrate heavily protected enemy bunkers. 

He feared that the Government's nuclear physicists were getting carried away and could not resist the temptation to improve existing weapons. He said they were making remarkable progress, even without testing, through computer simulations and pointed out that the laboratories' annual budget of $4 billion is a vast sum if all they are doing is maintenance and checking for flaws. 

Related: Penetrator N-bombs threaten third world 

Greenham women to put nukes & DU on trial 

Trident and all nuclear weapons designed and manufactured at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston are to be put on trial. At 10.30 am on 1 September, 1997 four women of the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp will face a jury trial on charges of criminal damage. Katrina Howse, Jean Hutchinson, Mary Wilson and Yolanda Kriek will defend themselves by citing the United Kingdom's obligation, under treaty, to prohibit the use, and threat of use, of nuclear weapons. 

The charge against the women arises out of an action taken by them at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, Berkshire on 21st March, 1996. They cut 700 meters of the perimeter fence with the intention of opposing the secrecy and security on which this bomb factory depends for the unchallenged production of nuclear weapons. These weapons have never been established as lawful. The women, by contrast, will base their defence on accepted and established national and international law. 

The defendants intend bringing expert witnesses with researched evidence to establish a connection between Uranium tipped weapons and the manufacture of Depleted Uranium (D.U.) at Aldermaston. These weapons were first used in the Gulf War in 1991~92 and have contaminated large areas of Iraq and Kuwait. They may also be responsible for some of the symptoms of illnesses suffered by members of the Allied Forces who took part in that war and who may have come into contact with toxic Uranium Oxide. 

The International Committee for Radiological Protection has stated, in report, under the heading 'The Use of depleted uranium in the Persian Gulf War that, "The radiation from Uranium tipped shells used to knock out Iraqi tanks is unseen," and, "the tank ammunition alone would contain over 50,000 lbs of Depleted Uranium." This, according to the authors of the report, amounts to enough radioactive material to potentially cause 500,000 deaths. 

The following witnesses are among those who will be called to assist the jury in evaluating the evidence to be submitted; 

    •  Dr. Gunther, ~ Austrian Doctor and Professor of Science will give evidence of his work on the genocidal effects of the weapons used in the Gulf War and establish a connection between the weapons and what is known as 'Gulf War Syndrome';
    • Maggie O'Kane ~ Journalist for The Guardian Newspaper whose reports during the Gulf War detailed the use and effects of these weapons. Subsequently, she presented the Channel Four programme, 'The Gulf War ~ Storm Over The Desert which revealed details on the conduct of the war that had been kept from the public; 
    • Tony Benn MP- ~ A Cabinet Member of Labour Governments during the years of 1964 and 1979, he will give evidence regarding the United Kingdom's involvement in the development of Uranium tipped weapons;
    • Frank Barnaby ~ Physicist and consultant on all nuclear matters, he will give evidence on the Trident nuclear weapons system. 
    • Professor Roger Clark~ Counsel for Samoa at the International Court of Justice