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Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre,, for Thursday October 3, 2011

Israel claims that accelerating settlement activity is a “right” of Israel, not punishment for seeking international recognition, and two aid ships draw ever closer to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to deliver supplies and break the siege., these stories and more, coming up, so stay tuned.

Palestinians have expressed their outrage after the Israeli government made a decision to withhold tax revenue due to be delivered to the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), to the tune of millions of dollars.

The decision in question came after the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had voted to grant Palestine full membership.

More than 150,000 P.A. employees are uncertain about receiving their full salaries in the coming weeks.

Despite withholding the tax revenue, Israel continues to increase its settlement activities within the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Tel Aviv expressing that they are not mutually linked, and the Israeli government is not punishing the Palestinians for seeking international recognition.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that their decision to escalate the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements is: “A basic right to Israel and is not a punishment to the Palestinians for gaining full membership at the UNESCO.”

He further affirmed that Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of the state of Israel,” and that the city “will never go back to the state it was in before the six-day war in 1967.”

The French Foreign Ministry has spoken out against the settlement expansion, and British Foreign Minister, William Hague, described the Israeli decision as a provocation, and added that this decision will have a direct impact on efforts to maintain security in the West Bank.

In other provocations, the Israeli Air Force has held war games across the skies of Italy, flying F-16 Fighting falcons and aerial-refuelling Boeing jets, operating out of an Italian NATO base, and was joined by Italian and German aircraft.

The Israeli Military has stated that the aerial manoeuvres and ballistic missile test completed earlier in the week are all drills and training which were planned long ago.

The timing is questionable, with rumblings leaking from Tel Aviv rumouring a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in the near future, a sentiment seemingly shared by the United States and the United Kingdom, who feel a strike is necessary and imminent.

The Israeli Army’s Home Front has also been conducting drills earlier on Thursday morning, in preparation for theoretical retaliatory strikes against them.

Evacuation and absorption centres were opened across central Israel, with a 90 second siren sounding, and gas masks being handed out.

Two aid ships, the Tahrir and Saoirse, have reached international waters, and are expected to reach the Gaza Strip in days. Twenty-seven human rights activists are aboard the two ships, along with a cache of essential medical supplies.

They said that their trip is nonviolent, and is meant to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza and challenge the illegal Israeli siege on the coastal region.

Israeli Lieutenant-Colonel, Avital Leibovich, told reporters by phone that Israeli soldiers intercepting the ships “will have to assess the situation upon approaching the vessels, and see if they are facing any violence.”
She stated that Israel imposed the siege on Gaza “to prevent the smuggling of weapons to armed groups.”

Israel has stated that they are prepared to deliver the supplies, but will not allow the two ships to breach the blockade.

They of course will wish to avoid a repeat of last year’s incident, where the Turkish aid flotilla ship, the Mavi Marmara, was stormed by elite Israeli Commandos. During the ensuing struggle and confusion, nine Turkish activists were shot dead, and several Israeli soldiers were injured.

That’s all for today from the IMEMC News, this was the Thursday October 3rd 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 William Gibson.