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Welcome to Palestine Today a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, for Thursday May 19th , 2011

Officials close to US President Obama have outlined the contents of the president’s speech on the Middle East later today. Obama is widely expected to announce a package of economic incentives to democratising Middle Eastern countries. The incentives will include extended aid packages and loans from the US and the international financial institutions as well as debt forgiveness. Commentators are likening the plan to the Marshall Aid plan of US President Harry Truman to Western European countries following WW2.

Maan news agency reports that The Planning and Building Committee for Jerusalem have announced plans for 1,500 new Jewish only housing units in illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. The announcement comes hours before US President Barrack Obama’s talk on the region later today and days before Israeli PM’s Benjamin Netanyahu speech before US congress next Tuesday. The housing units are due to be built in the illegal settlements of Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev. The settlements are part of land occupied after the 1967 war and as such are internationally recognized as Palestinian Territory. Much of the settlements are on privately owned Palestinian land.

In related news, radical Israeli settlement group, Hilltop Youth, have announced plans to build three new outposts in the West Bank. One such outpost is to be built on a strategic point connecting territories in a future Palestinian state. The area, situated between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, connects the major West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah. Israeli authorities had begun constructing a road in the area but pressure from the US forced its cancelation. The groups stated purpose in building the outpost is to prevent any potential future Palestinian state.

Palestinian negotiations official Saeb Erekat has lashed out at Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu for laying blame for ex US Envoy to The Middle East George Mitchell’s resignation on Palestinian negotiators. Erekat has claimed the refusal of Israel to extend the construction freeze on Israeli settlements last year was responsible for the breakdown in talks and George Mitchell’s frustrations with the process. “The Israelis would announce a new settlement project as Ambassador Mitchell’s plane would be landing in Tel-Aviv. He was completely undermined”, Mr Erekat said. Netanyahu had claimed that the preconditions to talks laid out by the Palestinians were unworkable and lead to Mitchell’s resignation.

Thats all for today from the IMEMC. This was the Thursday 19th of May’s daily roundup of news from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We hope you will join us again tomorrow. This was brought to you by Husam Qassis and me Kevin Murphy