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Monday, Oct 20th

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How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas

Surveying the wreckage of a neighbor's bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official Avner Cohen traces the missile's trajectory back to an "enormous, stupid mistake" made 30 years ago.

"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel's destruction.

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Study: 20 years of conflict has cost Middle East $12 trillion

The report looks at conflict in the entire region from Iran to Egypt, including between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the war in Iraq, tension between Iran and Israel and al Qaeda's activities in the Middle East. It also includes rivalry between the Palestinian organizations Hamas and Fatah.

Much of the discussion at Friday's presentation of the report centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the aftermath of Israel's 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip that killed 1,300 Palestinians, wounded 5,000 and left thousands homeless. Israel lost 10 soldiers and three civilians.

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Israel names justice minister to fight war crime charges

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has put the justice minister in charge of defending Israel against charges of war crimes during its 22-day Gaza assault, a government source said Friday.

Israel's military censor has already banned the publication of the identity of the unit leaders who fought against Hamas Islamists on the Gaza Strip for fear they may face war crimes charges.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded Tuesday that those responsible for bombing UN buildings in the Palestinian territory should be made accountable and accused Israel of using excessive force.

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China passes national health care plan

China's State Council, or Cabinet, passed a long awaited medical reform plan which promised to spend 850 billion yuan (123 billion U.S. dollars) by 2011 to provide universal medical service to the country's 1.3 billion population.

The plan was studied and passed at Wednesday's executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.

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How Israel drowns dissent

Last week, at the height of Operation Cast Lead, a group of Israeli firemen threw their hats into the political ring, albeit in somewhat undiplomatic and uncivilised fashion. During a peaceful anti-war vigil outside a Tel Aviv air force base, several members of the fire brigade turned on one protester, drenching her relentlessly with water from their hoses, before approaching her and ordering her into the station in order to "give us all head".

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UK Foreign Minister: 'War on terror' was wrong

The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common. Terrorist groups need to be tackled at root, interdicting flows of weapons and finance, exposing the shallowness of their claims, channelling their followers into democratic politics.

The "war on terror" also implied that the correct response was primarily military. But as General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife.

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Greece hinders US arms delivery to Israel

The US has to re-route arms shipment to Israel as Athens declined to allow a Greek port be used as a transit point, fearing nationwide protests.

Opposition parties in Greece have called for public demonstrations in Astakos on Wednesday and Thursday, raising fears of fresh nationwide protests, only weeks after violent anti-government riots were subdued.

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