- - Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WEST BANK

Fatah demands halt to Israeli settlements

RAMALLAH | Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud AbbasFatah movement insisted Tuesday that direct peace talks with Israel hinge on a complete halt to Jewish settlement building.

The Palestinians have long demanded a complete freeze on Israeli settlement expansion ahead of direct talks. They have accused Israel of undermining the process by approving new settler homes in mostly Arab annexed East Jerusalem, which they want as the capital of their promised state.

ISRAEL

Travel to Turkey warning lifted

JERUSALEM | Israel has canceled a warning to its people to avoid traveling to Turkey, citing an end to stormy protests over Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The Israeli statement Tuesday said “in light of the calm in Turkey and the absence of large-scale anti-Israeli demonstrations,” it was lifting its travel warning.

After the May 31 raid in which Israeli naval commandos killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists, Turkey’s government harshly criticized Israel and withdrew its ambassador, as demonstrations swept across the country.

Turkey had been a popular vacation spot for Israelis, but tourism dropped significantly after the raid.

LEBANON

Telecom arrests expose political rift

BEIRUT | Lebanon’s arrests of two telecommunication workers could mark a breakthrough in its spy war with Israel but has revived internal divisions that brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2008.

The arrests of Charbel Qazzi and Tareq Raba’a, employees at the state-owned mobile phone firm Alfa, shocked the country and raised fears over how deeply Israel had infiltrated Lebanon’s telecommunication and security sectors.

Syrian-backed group Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, has suggested that the Jewish state could have used agents to manipulate evidence such as phone records to implicate Hezbollah in the 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“It is now clear beyond any doubt that there is total Israeli control over the telecoms sector [in Lebanon],” Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said.

“We have heard a lot of talk from politicians and security officials in the country that there will be an indictment issued in September or October or November against Hezbollah members.”

Supporters of Hariri’s son Saad, who became prime minister last year at the head of a unity government, accused Hezbollah of trying to undermine the work of the international tribunal investigating Hariri’s death.

TURKEY

Turkish official meets with Hamas leader

ANKARA | Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus on Monday, Anatolia news agency reported Tuesday, a move that threatens to fan fresh tensions with Israel.

The two men discussed efforts to heal the rift between Hamas, the radical Islamist group controlling the Gaza Strip, and the Fatah faction of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Anatolia said.

The Middle East peace process was also on their agenda, it said.

The meeting took place amid simmering tensions between Turkey and its one-time ally Israel over the killings of nine Turks on May 31 in an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship that was part of a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza.

Mr. Davutoglu was in the Syrian capital, Damascus, for a one-day visit Monday, after which he headed to Afghanistan for an international conference on the future of the war-torn country.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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