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Israeli soldier ‘very excited’ to go home

In Israel, News on October 18, 2011 at 9:46 am
am 11 01 2009 — Brei...

Pro-Israel-Demo in Berlin ( Photo via Wikipedia )

An Israeli soldier freed after five years of captivity by Hamas militants says he is “very excited” to be headed home.

In an interview with an Egyptian TV station, Schalit says he was told about a week ago that he was being freed. He says he feared he would remain in captivity for “many more years” and remained afraid that “things may go wrong.”

Schalit said he missed his family and friends and now has a lot to do.

Israel’s army has confirmed that Schalit is now on Israeli soil, after Hamas militants in Gaza transferred him to Egypt earlier Tuesday.

Israel is freeing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in return.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

In this image from Egypt TV Tuesday Oct 18 2011 Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit is seen at an undisclosed location in the Gaza- Egypt border area accompanied by Hamas guards as he is moved in to Egypt from captivity in Gaza beginning an elaborate prisoner swap deal in which hundreds of Palestinian inmates are to be freed in return for the captured tank crewman. (AP Photo/ Egypt TV) TV OUT NO SALES

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s army spokesman says captured soldier Sgt. Gilad Schalit “has returned home” after more than five years in Hamas captivity.

Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told a news conference on Tuesday that “Today, Gilad Schalit is with is.”

Mordechai says Schalit is being accompanied by senior military officials to a base, where he will undergo some medical tests and talk to his family.

Israel is freeing more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit, who was captured by Hamas militants in June 2006 and held in the Gaza Strip.

Source:  Associated Press.

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Republican Presidential Candidate: Herman Cain

At debate, focus is on fast-rising Herman Cain

 

By KASIE HUNT, AP

Herman Cain has risen fast. Now the question is: Will he fall?

As Republican presidential hopefuls were preparing for a debate here Tuesday night, Cain has been facing more and more intense scrutiny as his poll numbers have jumped upward.

Now that he’s in the national spotlight, he’s already had to apologize for comments he made over the weekend calling for an electric fence on the Southern border with Mexico.

At a campaign stop Monday in Arizona, Cain appeared with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an aggressive anti-immigration proponent. “It was a joke,” Cain said emphatically during a news conference. “I apologize if I offended anyone. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.”

Cain told an audience in Tennessee on Saturday that the fence is “going to be electrified. And there is going to be a sign on the other side that says, `It will kill you.'”

Immigration already has flared on the campaign trail — and contributed to the sinking of another fast-rising GOP candidate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has struggled to explain why he signed a law giving in-state tuition breaks to illegal immigrants at Texas universities. When he first entered the race, he was at or near the top of many national polls. He’s fallen back since, and Cain has emerged as the more popular alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Also participating in Tuesday’s debate are Romney, Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Missing is former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who’s boycotting the Nevada caucuses in defense of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. Nevada has scheduled its contest for Jan. 14, and Republican officials are pressuring Romney and other Republicans to join Huntsman’s boycott if the state refuses to hold the caucuses later in January.

Also potentially at issue on Tuesday is the foreclosure crisis. So far, it’s been almost forgotten on the campaign trail, but the candidates will probably have little choice but to address it. Nevada has the nation’s highest unemployment rate, a statistic that’s driving the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. It’s the root of the economic crisis, but it barely has been discussed as issues like immigration and vaccines for children have dominated the GOP primary.

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Panetta warns Israel against growing isolation

In Israel, News, Palestinian, Politics, Terrorism on October 3, 2011 at 9:27 am

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta answers questions aboard an Air Force plane over the Atlantic Ocean Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011. Panetta is traveling to the Middle East to meet with leaders on various issues related to the region. (AP Photo/Win McNamee, Pool)

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, AP

The continuing turmoil in the Middle East makes it crucial that Israel finds ways to communicate with other nations in the region if it’s ever going to enjoy peace and stability, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned in a blunt assessment.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday as he traveled to the Mideast and Europe, Panetta said the Jewish homeland is becoming increasingly isolated in the region. He said Israeli leaders need to restart negotiations with the Palestinians and work to restore relations with Egypt and Turkey.

“There’s not much question in my mind that they maintain that (military) edge,” Panetta said. “But the question you have to ask: Is it enough to maintain a military edge if you’re isolating yourself in the diplomatic arena? Real security can only be achieved by both a strong diplomatic effort as well as a strong effort to project your military strength.”

Panetta is scheduled to meet this week with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and then travel to a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. He will also go to Egypt, where he will meet with that nation’s new leaders.

His visit comes as Mideast negotiators push for a peace deal by the end of next year, amping up pressure for the resumption of long-stalled talks.

The Pentagon chief said Israel risks eroding its own security if it does not reach out to its neighbors.

“It’s pretty clear that at this dramatic time in the Middle East, when there have been so many changes, that it is not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated. And that’s what’s happening,” he said.

Panetta said the most important thing now is for Israel and its neighbors “to try to develop better relationships so in the very least they can communicate with each other rather than taking these issues to the streets.”

His visit comes at a particularly critical and fragile time.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the U.N. Security Council to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. The United States opposed the U.N. bid, saying there is no substitute for direct peace negotiations. But with Israel continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Abbas says there is no point in talking.

Some 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

The United States, Britain, France and other council members are likely to try to hold up consideration of the application while they press for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Panetta is scheduled to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

His visit to Israel comes six months after his predecessor, Robert Gates, traveled to the region to meet with Israeli leaders and make the first journey to the West Bank to talk with Fayyad

Source:  The Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

Abbas says no talks without Israeli settlement freeze

In Israel, News, Palestinian on September 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

Mahmoud Abbas

By Ali Sawafta, Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas repeated on Sunday his refusal to talk with Israel without a settlement freeze after international mediators, responding to his United Nations bid for statehood, urged negotiations within a month.

“We have confirmed to all that we want to achieve our rights through peaceful means, through negotiations — but not just any negotiations,” Abbas told a cheering crowd of thousands on his return to the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“We will not accept (negotiations) until legitimacy is the foundation and they cease settlement completely,” he said, two days after presenting the application for Palestinian statehood and addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed a year ago after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month limited moratorium on construction in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians say the settlements, built on land Israel captured in a 1967 war, would deny them a viable state. Israel cites historic and Biblical links to the West Bank, which it calls by its Hebrew names, Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu, who has termed a settlement freeze an unacceptable precondition, gave no indication in his own speech at the U.N. of any change in his position. He urged Abbas to return to peace talks.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has said it will block the statehood move in the Security Council, which is expected to convene on Monday to discuss the application Abbas made after 20 years of failed Israeli-Palestinian talks.

NEW AGENDA

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians have responded formally to a plan from the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N. — for a return to direct negotiations.

The forum urged Israel and the Palestinians to meet within a month and set a new agenda for talks, with the aim of achieving a peace deal by the end of 2012 that would result in the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Netanyahu welcomed the Quartet’s call but reserved an official reply until he meets with senior cabinet ministers after his return on Monday from New York.

Abbas has said he would discuss the ideas with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leaders and other senior Palestinian officials.

Hours before Abbas returned to the West Bank, Netanyahu’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said there would be “tough repercussions” if the U.N. approved the statehood application {nS1E78L2CV].

Lieberman, who heads a far-right party in Netanyahu’s governing coalition, did not spell out what action Israel might take. He said Israel had reservations about the Quartet’s proposal but was “ready to open immediate negotiations” with the Palestinians.

In the past, Lieberman has suggested severing ties with Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, if it wins recognition without a peace deal with Israel.

Israel is concerned that even if the United States vetoes a statehood resolution in the Security Council, the Palestinians could still win approval in the General Assembly for a more limited U.N. membership.

Source: Reuters

 

 
 
 
 
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