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Israeline — Monday, August 4, 2003 —

** Woman and Her Three Children Injured in Shooting Attack – Searches Underway for Missing Teenagers
** Additional IDF Redeployment from West Bank Towns Suspended
** Israel Approves Release of 443 Palestinians
** Promising Treatment Developed for Spinal Cord Injuries
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs


Woman and Her Three Children Injured in Shooting Attack – Searches Underway for Missing Teenagers
An Israeli woman was critically wounded and her three younger children moderately injured in a shooting attack near Jerusalem on Sunday, HA’ARETZ reported. The attack occurred shortly before 9:30 P.M. when two cars, driven by Israeli civilians, were shot at on the road that leads from Jerusalem’s Malha neighborhood to the community of Har Gilo. Two Palestinian gunmen shot at the cars and one was hit. Magen David Adom official Zaki Heller said crews sent to the site treated 39-year-old Zila Hayoun, who received a gunshot wound to the chest, and her nine-year-old daughter, who suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. The two were transferred to Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. Zayoun’s two other children, a 14-year-old girl and her 12-year-old brother, were treated at the site. Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the shooting. The shots were fired from a location very close to the Bethlehem region, over which the Palestinian Authority assumed security control a few weeks ago. The attack is the first in the Bethlehem area since authority was transferred to the PA, piercing the period of relative calm and peace that has existed since the Hudna (cease-fire) was announced.

Meanwhile, the search for missing 18-year-old Dana Bennet has entered its fourth day, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Bennet was last seen in the early hours of Friday after completing her waitress shift at a restaurant in Tiberias. Her disappearance follows the recent kidnapping and murder of Cpl. Oleg Shaikhet, 20, of upper Nazareth and the attempted abduction of another soldier near Yokne’am last Thursday. These two incidences both occurred only 15-20 minutes away from the spot where Bennet was last seen. Police are not jumping to any conclusions about the possibility of a terrorist gang operating in the North, although the possibility of a connection between the abduction of Shaikhet and the attempted kidnapping of the two other soldiers is being thoroughly investigated. Police spokesman Supt. Gil Kleiman has extended the search for Bennet to areas in the north and west. Furthermore, more then 400 volunteers have joined about 150 police and civil guard personnel in the region, walking through forests and dense brush.

A 19-year-old American tourist, Eliezer Zusia Klockhoft, also went missing during the early hours of Sunday morning while visiting the grave of rabbinical sage Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai on Mount Meron with a group of fellow students. The other students left the site for a while, leaving him alone at the scene, police said, and when they returned he was gone. The students themselves searched for him for several hours before reporting his disappearance. Klockhoft has been studying for the past 3 months at a yeshiva in Jerusalem.


Additional IDF Redeployment from West Bank Towns Suspended
Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz said this morning that Israel was waiting to see how the Palestinian Authority would react to Sunday’s shooting in which Zila Hayoun and her three children were wounded before handing over additional West Bank towns to Palestinian control, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported. Mofaz said the Israel Defense Forces were preparing for the possibility of renewed conflict and that at the end of September, the security establishment would re-assess the situation and examine the steps taken by the PA. Prior to the defense minister’s statement, Major-General Amos Gilad met at the Erez crossing Sunday night with Palestinian security minister Mohammed Dahlan to discuss a transfer of more West Bank towns to the Palestinians, but no agreement was reached.

The two men also discussed the arrests over the weekend of a group of Al Aqsa terrorists in Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah compound. The group of 18 refused an order from Arafat that they move to Jericho, and have been placed under armed guard in the west wing of the Muqata compound. The Palestinian Authority wants to get the men away from Ramallah in order to facilitate a possible IDF withdrawal from the city, and a lifting of the siege on Arafat.

In other news, Israel has rejected a Palestinian proposal to turn the temporary ceasefire into a permanent arrangement. During talks Sunday at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom told his Palestinian counterpart Nabil Shaath that if the PA did not implement its road map commitments to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, there would be no movement to the second stage of the peace plan.


Israel Approves Release of 443 Palestinians
Following a decision on Sunday by the ministerial committee on Palestinian prisoners approving the release of Palestinians held in captivity, Israel published today a list containing the names of 349 of the 443 prisoners set to be freed on Wednesday, HA’ARETZ reported. The list was published on the Prison Service’s website and was posted to allow individuals opposing the releases to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The Prison Service’s website lists 183 convicted security offenders and 161 administrative detainees. The remaining prisoners are apparently Palestinians convicted of criminal offenses as well as people apprehended while illegally residing inside Israel.

Of the 183 security prisoners, 64 are members of Palestinian terror groups – 59 of whom are members of Islamic organizations. Most of the prisoners to be freed were sentenced to a maximum of two years imprisonment – a majority of them were convicted to sentences of a few months long. The list does, however, include prisoners sentenced to 13 and 15 years.

Despite the ministerial committee’s decision that no prisoner with "blood on his hands" would be released, some of those convicted of participating in terror attacks attempts, shootings, planting of explosives devices and throwing of grenades or Molotov cocktails, will be released.

Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this morning, Prime Minster Ariel Sharon indicated that the Palestinian prisoner release would go ahead despite Sunday night’s shooting attack near Jerusalem.


Promising Treatment Developed for Spinal Cord Injuries
A revolutionary experimental therapy for spinal cord injuries is being developed by Proneuron Biotechnologies, Inc based on discoveries made in Israel at the Weizmann Institute of Science, ISRAEL 21C reported. Proneuron’s treatment involves isolation of macrophages from the patient’s blood, processing in the laboratory and then injection of the cells into the spinal cord in the vicinity of the area of damage. The treatment, which must be provided within 14 days of spinal cord injury, requires a surgical procedure to open the spine for the injection of the macrophage cells into the spinal cord.

The therapy, which recently completed Phase I FDA approved clinical studies, demonstrated preliminary promising results with the first eight patients who were flown to Israel for treatment and follow up from around the world. All had suffered a spinal cord injury in the previous 2 weeks and as a result had lost completely the motor and sensory nerve function below the level of the injury. As a result of the treatment, three of the eight individuals experienced some recovery of both sensation and voluntary movement in their trunk and legs; recovery of this extent is very rare in patients with similar injuries. With these results, the company is expecting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve plans for Phase II testing of the therapy to begin in late summer in the United States.

"It tells you something. Doctors from all over the world sent their patients to Israel for a month – in the middle of this conflict – and the families of the patients also came. From a patient perspective – there are no clinical alternatives," said Dr. David Snyder, Vice-President of Clinical Development at Proneuron.

During his fact-finding visit here last week regarding Israel’s work in the field of spinal cord injury therapy, American actor Christopher Reeve met with the directors of Proneuron and with American and Israeli patients who were involved in the trials and who had regained partial movement. He expressed amazement at the technology and the results and according to Snyder, said it was incredible he was speaking to patients that had received therapy and who had been helped.


Other News in Brief

Hizbullah fired three salvos of anti-aircraft shells on Sunday, some of which landed on communities in the Western Galilee, lightly injuring one person, HA’ARETZ reported. Seven others were treated for shock, and a holiday cottage on Moshav Even Menahem was seriously damaged. Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz said Sunday’s Hizbullah attacks on northern Israel amount to terrorism against Israeli communities and stand as a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Security sources say Israeli planes did not fly over Lebanese air space Sunday, and the Hizbullah anti-aircraft fire was unprovoked.

The Israel Defense Forces conducted anti-terror operations in the West Bank on Sunday night, killing one Palestinian bomber and arresting three men suspected of terror activity, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. "Paratroopers, working with IDF intelligence, found and killed a Palestinian who was planting roadside charges at the entrance of the village of Farun, near the West Bank town of Tulkarm," a military source said. "Paratroopers used automatic weapons and grenades as they came up and surprised the terrorist, not giving him time to set off the 10 kilo bomb he had been preparing to ambush IDF patrol jeeps." IDF Special Forces arrested a member of Fatah terrorists on Sunday night in Ramallah, while troops from the Tank brigade detained 2 members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the village of Lackif.


Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

MicroStrategy Incorporated, a provider of business intelligence software, received an initial order of $5 million from the U.S. Postal Service to deploy the MicroStrategy Business Intelligence Platform enterprise-wide for reporting, analysis and information delivery, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. In addition, the Postal Service has acquired options to procure consulting services, education, and software support services over the next five years. MicroStrategy is represented in Israel by I.E. Mittwoch & Sons.

Following three years of almost constant decline, manufacturers are optimistic for the third quarter of 2003, GLOBES reported. This is due to the improved security and political situation, according to a Manufacturers Association survey of 180 plants conducted in early July. Manufacturers expect higher production, domestic sales and exports in the third quarter, as well as a modest increase in investment and a slowing of lay-offs. Twenty percent of manufacturers plan to reduce their workforce in the third quarter, while 9 percent plan to slowly begin hiring. Most industrial sectors, except for food, expect a slow increase in their labor force, and the electronics sector expects no change.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Dina Wosner, Adar Zango and Victor Chemtob at The Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Tuesday, August 5, 2003 —

** Sharon-Abbas Meeting Cancelled
** Israel Strives to Improve Its Status at the UN
** Iran Could Have Nuclear Weapons by 2005
** Israeli Scientists Develop Low-Calorie Watermelon
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

Sharon-Abbas Meeting Cancelled
A meeting scheduled for Wednesday between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas has been cancelled, HA’ARETZ reported. There were reports that Sharon had called off the meeting due to Sunday night’s shooting attack, but Ehud Olmert, Minister of Industry and Trade and Deputy Prime Minister, told Army Radio that Sharon had not set any conditions for the meeting to take place. Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom also postponed his planned Tuesday meetings with Palestinian Authority ministers. Meanwhile, according to Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, Abu Mazen is scheduled to meet with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in the Gaza Strip. The release of Palestinian prisoners is expected to be among the issues to be discussed. He also met Monday night with senior Fatah members in the West Bank, urging them to strengthen the cease-fire and rein in rogue cells, such as the one that opened fire Sunday night wounding a mother and two of her children as they were driving on the road from southern Jerusalem to the community of Har Gilo. Meanwhile, Israel has halted any handovers of Palestinian towns in the West Bank to PA security services as a result of Sunday night’s shooting attack. Israel has also complained to the United States that the PA is not taking action against armed factions in Gaza and the West Bank. According to Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz, the "moment of truth" in the current political process with the Palestinians will arrive at the end of September, when the three-month cease-fire announced by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in late June comes to an end.


Israel Strives to Improve Its Status at the UN
In an effort to change the international community’s view toward Israel, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom requested in a meeting this week with his counterpart, Palestinian Minister for External Affairs Nabil Sha’ath, that the Palestinians halt their efforts to promote anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, HA’ARETZ reported. Shalom is undertaking a diplomatic initiative meant to cancel anti-Israeli resolutions passed over the years by the UN and other international agencies. The first targets are the 25 member states or candidate members of the European Union, since their votes are often decisive in international agencies. Last month Shalom addressed the European Union Council of Ministers to help foster a better atmosphere in the international community with regard to their view on Israel. Shalom feels that if the European Union and the United Nations authored the Middle East roadmap, they also need to create an atmosphere within the international community to foster the initiative. "At such time that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are meeting regularly and Palestinian incitement is being curtailed, there is no place for the kind of one-sided anti-Israel decisions that we have become used to at the United Nations, which serve only to perpetuate the atmosphere of conflict," Shalom said. He added, "a culture of incitement must be replaced by a culture of peace and I am convinced that Europe can play a key role." Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Gillerman met with his French colleague on the issue, and was told that "if the cease-fire lasts another month, France would not only join the initiative but help lead it."


Iran Could Have Nuclear Weapons by 2005 – IDF
A senior military intelligence officer said that Iran was only steps away from completing a nuclear program which would allow the country to develop nuclear weapons by 2005, HA’ARETZ reports. Following a three-month investigation, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the completion of Iran’s nuclear program was imminent and that the country was in the final stages of building a nuclear bomb. Reuters reported last month that UN nuclear inspectors had found traces of enriched uranium in environmental samples taken during recent inspections in Iran. In addition, Iran has recently sought help from scientists in Russia, China, North Korea and Pakistan, in order to expedite the program’s progress. North Korean military scientists have assisted in the design of an Iranian nuclear warhead while Russian scientists have traveled to Iran incognito in order to help complete a special reactor that could produce weapons-grade plutonium. The Times also found that Tehran had recently approached European companies in an attempt to buy devices that could manipulate large volumes of radioactive material, technology to forge uranium metal, and switches that could trigger a nuclear weapon. The Times maintains that Iran’s commercial program serves to veil Iran’s true plan of becoming the world’s next nuclear power. The paper insists that Iran was "much closer to producing a bomb than Iraq ever was." Shimon Briarsky, a former intelligence official in charge of Iranian affairs, urged the United States to exert "massive" diplomatic pressure on Iran as soon as possible in order to hinder its existing nuclear plans. The United States has "a window of a year and a half, two years," Briarsky told Army Radio on Monday. "Not for military action, but for diplomatic action that would start with diplomatic pressure and continue with involving the [United Nations] Security Council."


Israeli Scientists Develop Low-Calorie Watermelon
Israeli scientists announced today that they have developed a low-calorie watermelon with all the sweetness but significantly less sugar than common watermelon varieties, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. "The problem with watermelon is that unlike other fruit, one tends to eat a lot and the calories accumulate," Shmuel Wolf, chief researcher of the team from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said. The average watermelon contains 54 calories per 4 oz (112 gram). The new variety has 20 to 40 percent less calories, Wolf said. The calories in a watermelon come from the sugar content, with each melon containing three separate types of sugars – sucrose, glucose and fructose. To create the diet melon, researchers isolated a variety whose sugar content is composed mostly of fructose. "Fructose is the sweetest kind of sugar and so you need less sugar to make the melon sweet, hence less calories," he said.

Wolf said that his team had found natural varieties of wild melons growing in the Sinai desert and North Africa with the high fructose percentage; however, these fruits were bitter. "Our challenge was to make them sweet," Wolf said, noting that this was achieved through normal methods of cultivation and not genetic modification. Wolf could not say when the diet melons would reach the markets.


Other News in Brief

The searches for missing teenagers Dana Bennet, from Migdal near Tiberias, and Eliezer Klughoft, a 19-year-old American Haredi yeshiva student have intensified, Israel Radio reported. Bennet has been missing for five days, while Klughoft went missing on Monday.

Israel issued on Monday a blunt warning to Syria to rein in Hizbullah after its continued barrages of anti-aircraft fire over Galilee on Sunday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz criticized Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying he was making "unwise decisions." "The regional architecture has changed during the past year," Mofaz said. "There is great pressure on the Syrians due to decisions they made during the Iraqi war. There is American pressure on them to eject the terrorist organizations from Damascus, to remove their army from Lebanon, and to dismantle Hizbullah and allow the Lebanese army to accept responsibility in southern Lebanon."

A 13-year-old Gaza resident was killed when an explosive device went off in the Sejaiah neighborhood in Gaza City, Israel Radio reported. The teenager was apparently playing with the bomb when it blew up.

Yad Vashem, the Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, announced Monday that Romania would send young politicians from a wide range of parties to Israel to study the Holocaust, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Israel and Romania were embroiled in a brief but bitter diplomatic exchange after the Romanian government denied the Holocaust ever occurred in Romania, and President Ion Iliescu downplayed the Nazi killing of Jews. During a visit to Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial and research center for the Holocaust, Romanian Ambassador Valeria Mariana Stoica discussed Romanian participation in a commission to investigate events of World War II in Romania relating to the treatment of Jews. Romania was home to 760,000 Jews before World War II. An estimated 420,000 were killed during the war. More than 20,000 Romanian Gypsies also died after being deported to camps. About 6,000 Jews now live in Romania.


Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

Click Software, a provider of workforce management software, announced today that it won a multi-year contract valued at several million dollars from Deutsche Telekom’s T-Com division, GLOBES reported. ClickSoftware said its ServiceOptimization Suite would enable T-Com to improve the efficiency of its field service operations, and improve response times to customer service requests. T-Com is primarily responsible for the fixed-line network sector within Deutsche Telekom’s four strategic business areas. The division is one of the largest fixed network providers in Europe, with about 56 million connections — including ISDN channels.

Demand for computer and communications workers rose 7.4 percent in July, compared with June, according to a Manpower Information Technology (MIT) survey based on help-wanted ads in the major newspapers, GLOBES reported. The survey also found that demand for computer and communications workers was 46.7 percent lower in July 2003 than in July 2002. Most of the demand was for programmers, which rose 21.7 percent. In contrast, demand for network managers and support staff plunged 29.5 percent and for hardware engineers 36.7 percent. The survey found sharp volatility in demand for various skills.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by David Nekrutman, Adina Kay, Naomi Peled, Adar Zango, and Victor Chemtob at the Consulate-General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Wednesday, August 6, 2003 —

** Israel Releases Prisoners to Palestinian Authority
** Iran Increases Its Involvement in Terror Against Israel
** IDF Arrests 14 Palestinians in Jericho – Mortar Fired In Gaza
** Bank of Israel Official Analyzes Prospects of Israel’s Economy
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs


Israel Releases Prisoners to Palestinian Authority
Israel released today 339 Palestinian prisoners in a goodwill gesture to the Palestinian Authority, HAARETZ reported. The prisoners were bused to five separate checkpoints – four in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip – and set free. A military source was quoted as saying that "this release represents a powerful and realistic gesture of Israel’s intention to follow the road map and secure a lasting peace with the Palestinians."

The first bus of 16 prisoners left Ketziot Prison, south of Beersheba, at 7 a.m. At 2:30 p.m., the actual handover took place as all of the buses arrived at the checkpoints simultaneously and the handcuffs on the prisoners were removed. The largest number of prisoners, 103, was freed at the Turkamiya roadblock. Seventy were released at Tulkarm, 70 at Beitunya, 68 near Jenin and the remaining 28 at the Erez crossing in the Gaza Strip. The high-security release included police escorts and ambulances and was coordinated by a central command center.

None of the 339 prisoners had been involved in any lethal attack on Israelis; an additional 99 will be released shortly, of whom 50 were originally sentenced for criminal activity and 49 had been detained for being in Israel without the proper permits.

All of the freed prisoners had to sign a declaration promising not to be involved in further activity against Israel; those who failed to sign the form were not released.


Iran Increases Its Involvement in Terror Against Israel
Iran has been increasing the amount of funds it sends to Palestinian terror groups ever since the "hudna" (cease-fire) began on June 29, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. In its recent attempts to support terrorist plots against Israel, Iran has sent money and weapons as well as direct military training to terrorists. "We know without a doubt that Iran and the Hizbullah in Lebanon are in contact with elements on the ground, issue orders and send funds," a senior security official was quoted as saying.

Iran has already sent millions of dollars to support the activities of the Fatah and Tanzim cells in the Samaria area. Typically, the Iranian funds are sent to the terror groups under the guise of humanitarian or charity aid; the success of the Tanzim militia in carrying out its terror attacks against Israelis is believed to be linked to the increasing amounts of Iranian aid it has been receiving.

Iranian funding has also aided Kamel Ghanem, the senior Al Aqsa Brigade commander, in his recruitment of terrorists and in his efforts to plan attacks.

Taking advantage of the current situation, Iran is primarily operating through two channels: the Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Iranian backed Revolutionary Guards, whose contacts with Tanzim elements in the West Bank and the Popular Resistance committee groups in the Gaza Strip allow it to have a large say in terror activities against Israel.


IDF Arrests 14 Palestinians in Jericho – Mortar Fired In Gaza
The IDF arrested 14 Palestinian terror suspects in Jericho, HAARETZ reported. The group had been planning terror attacks and was manufacturing weapons and ammunition. Elsewhere, an elite border police unit apprehended Mohammed Alawuni, a wanted Tanzim militia member, in a village south of Jenin. Alawuni escaped from the Ofer detention center near Ramallah several months ago and security forces had been on the lookout for him ever since.

Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired mortar shells at Neveh Dekalim minutes after several hundred Palestinian prisoners were set free by Israel, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. No injuries were caused by the attack.

In other news, the search continues for teenagers Dana Bennet and Eliezer Zuisa Klockhoft. Police spokesman Gil Klaiman said that investigators were following every possible lead in both cases although so far they have come up with no concrete results. Some 200 volunteers and 100 police officers have been searching for Bennet, who went missing Friday morning en route to her uncle’s home after finishing her shift as a waitress.

Klockhoft, a yeshiva student from New York who had been studying in Jerusalem, was reported missing after visiting the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai on Mount Meron. He had gone to the site with a group of fellow students and disappeared when they left him alone.


Bank of Israel Official Analyzes Prospects of Israel’s Economy
According to Deputy director of the Bank of Israel’s research department, Dr. Michel Stravchinsky, Israel’s economy will start its recovery once consumer consuption is steadily on the rise, HAARETZ reported. "The best thing one can say today is that for the first time in the last three years, the state of the economy is a puzzle," he said. "Until December 2002, there was no puzzle; it was clear that the economy was deteriorating and gross domestic product was declining steadily. But in the first half of 2003, there are both positive and negative data." Though falling wages, rising unemployment and a restrictive fiscal policy that curbs demand are all still there in the background, there is one positive factor now that did not exist in previous years – the lull in the fighting that is boosting confidence in the economy. This has been reflected, among other things, in the stock market, which is currently 36 percent higher than its February low, despite an 11-percent drop last month. "When there are terror attacks, it directly affects consumption," Stravchinsky explained. "People don’t go to restaurants; they don’t go to malls. But when the trend is toward calm, consumers believe that their incomes will rise at some point and they can, therefore, go ahead with all kinds of purchasing decisions that they had previously postponed." The sharp rise in imports of cars and appliances in July, reported earlier this week, may be a reflection of this improved consumer mood. Imports of durable goods totaled $125 million in July – up from $104 million in July 2002, and $108 million in June 2003. There was an especially noteworthy surge in car imports: 9,819 cars worth $96 million were imported in July – a 23-percent increase over the same month last year.

The Bank of Israel has devised an index – the "S," or state of the economy index – to try to measure the economy’s health. The index, a weighted average of data on industrial production, retailing revenues, exports,imports and employment has been steadily declining for a long time. Over the last year, however, the decline has been led by the poor data on retailing revenues, which are a measure of private consumption. Thus, the July data on durable goods might be seen as a positive sign.

"At the minute, we do not dare to say that the economy has emerged from recession or that the turnaround has arrived," Stravchinsky said. "In order to be able to say that the whole business is behind us, there must be a steady rise in consumption. In other words, the July figures must repeat themselves in the coming quarters."


Other News in Brief

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Thursday at the start of a Gulf tour that will also take him to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, HAARETZ reported. Abbas, on his first visit to Saudi Arabia since becoming prime minister, will discuss with the kingdom’s leaders the outcome of his recent visit to Washington as well as the measures taken on the road map to peace in the Middle East.

El Al Israel Airlines will bring some 5,000 young Jewish people to Israel over the next two weeks as part of the birthright israel project, HAARETZ reported. The national carrier said on Tuesday that it would bring the youths, many on their first ever trip to Israel, from some 20 countries, including the United States, Canada, Argentina, Belarus, Russia, Uruguay, Poland, Britain, Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Romania, and Venezuela. A group of eight youths from Cuba arrived in Israel earlier this week. Some 300 Canadian Jews are set to arrive here tomorrow as part of the project. birthright israel offers free, 10-day trips to young Jewish adults aged between 18-26.


Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

The Investment Center of the Ministry of Trade and Industry approved nine new projects today, worth a combined value of $5 million, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Among the projects approved are a $1.5 million endeavor to Sitech Vision, based in Netanya, for the creation of a new digital printing system and a $1.1 million project for Emek Ha’Elah Wineries, intended to create a new winery in Emek Ha’ela. Also approved were a Herzliya-based, $313,000 endeavor for Enigma Systems, set out to create electronic catalogues, and a $250,000 project of Stakplast, meant to increase the use of plastics in the field of cosmetics.

The B-One joint venture between Bezeq subsidiaries BezeqCall, Bezeq International and Pele-Phone was officially launched today, GLOBES reported. B-One will offer small business customers two packages combining Pele-Phone cellular services, Bezeq International Internet and international calls services, and BezeqCall switchboard services. Pele-Phone owns 65 percent of B-One, Bezeq International 28 percent, and BezeqCall 7 percent. At a press conference today, B-One general manager Eliav Ashkenazi said this was the first time that small business customers were being offered a combination of products from one source on one bill. He said product bundling was becoming increasingly common among the world’s major communications companies.

1,500 Israeli start-ups closed in the past three years and scores more will close in the near future unless they obtain financing, Israel Export Institute start-up division public board chairman Dr. Avi Messica said on Tuesday, GLOBES reported. Messica said cutting the Export Institute’s export marketing encouragement fund was "almost a death blow for start-ups in Israel." However he added that, "the Israeli start-ups that survive this year will have a chance to succeed," and predicted a recovery in 2004.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Matthew Miller, Adar Zango, and Victor Chemtob at the Consulate-General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Thursday, August 7, 2003 —


** Israel Disappointed at Palestinian Reaction to Prisoners’ Release
** 14 Terror Attacks Warnings Reported Today
** Israeli Worker’s Average Wage on the Decline
** Asteroids Named after Columbia Space Shuttle’s Seven Astronauts
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs


Israel Disappointed at Palestinian Reaction to Prisoners’ Release
A senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces general staff said today that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and PA Minister for Security Mohammed Dahlan “did everything they could” to minimize the importance of Israel’s release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners,” HA’ARETZ reported. He also said that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’ government was “sorely mistaken” when it did not present the prisoner release to the Palestinian public and other steps Israel had taken – like the withdrawal from Gaza and the easing of travel restrictions in the West Bank – as its achievements. He said Abbas preferred to be cautious in his statements because of his fear that Arafat was trying to present him as an “Israeli and American collaborator.” The IDF officer’s comments came as a senior Palestinian Authority minister dismissed Israel’s release of over 300 Palestinian prisoners as a “theatrical” measure aimed at winning points with the Bush administration. The prisoners were set free as part of a good-will measure. The prisoners were handed over to the PA at four West Bank checkpoints and one in the Gaza Strip. “We hope this is a trust-building move that will help promote the (peace) process,” Arnon Perlman, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said. But senior PA minister Yasser Abed Rabbo dismissed the move. “It is worthless and meaningless,” he said. “It is a theatrical step to appease Washington.”

Another 99 prisoners, mostly criminals and Palestinians who were caught without permits inside Israel, will be released from Prisons Service facilities over the coming days.

Before leaving prison, the 334 prisoners were examined by doctors and videotaped as they signed a document in which they vowed that they would not undertake illegal activities against Israel in the future. But Hamad al-Smairi, a member of Islamic Jihad and one of several dozen militants freed, said he would feel no compulsion to abide by that promise. “I am a soldier of the Islamic Jihad and I will do whatever and be whatever the Islamic Jihad wishes,” he said.


14 Terror Attack Warnings Reported Today
Security sources warned of 14 new terror plots today, HA’ARETZ reported. The planned attacks include kidnappings of civilians as well as soldiers. The revelation comes after a raid on a terror cell in Jericho today, in which security forces rounded up Palestinians suspected of terror activities.

Meanwhile, following Sunday’s shooting attack that wounded an Israeli woman and her three daughters on the road from Jerusalem to Gilo, Palestinian security services are still attempting to locate those responsible.

In other news, security forces captured a homicide bomber last Friday as he was set to strike in Israel, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The bomber, Amid Touriki, is a seventeen-year old member of the Tanzim militia. Reports have linked the Tanzim’s recent successes to increasing Iranian aid to the terror organization. Touriki was recruited by Naif Abu Sharah in Nablus. Sharah’s name was on a list delivered to the Palestinian Authority of terror leaders the Israel Defense Forces want to see arrested. Sharah was apparently allowed to continue his terror activities in all impunity.

Security sources indicated that Israel’s release today of Palestinian prisoners was a confidence-building move but that Israel would not be able to take further steps unless the Palestinians took the appropriate measures to halt terrorist activities in the areas under their control.


Israeli Worker’s Average Wage on the Decline
The Central Bureau of Statistics indicated today that the average gross wage for a salaried worker in Israel fell by NIS 526 (approximately $119) since the start of the year and is now only NIS 6,787 a month (approximately $1542), HA’ARETZ reported. The decline (7.2 percent since the year’s start) comes after a 6.1 percent cut was registered in salaries in 2002. Nearly half that drop was recorded in May, when the average wage lost NIS 221 (approximately $50). Another decline is expected in July because of an average cut of some 4 percent in the wages of 700,000 workers in the public sector. Prior to 2002, the public sector had seen years of wage hikes.

Further cuts in salaries can be expected over the coming months in the wake of the government’s decision to cut salaries in the public sector, starting in July, for the next 24 months.

The CBS also published data according to which 71,400 legal foreign workers employed in Israel earned much less in May than the average Israeli worker – NIS 4,088 (approximately $929), nearly NIS 2,000 (approximately $454) less than Israelis.

There were 2,336,000 salaried workers in Israel in May. If the number of foreign workers and workers from the West Bank and Gaza is added, the figure for salaried workers in May reaches 2,416,000 and the average gross wage drops to NIS 6,688 (approximately $1520).

Those with the highest salaries were the employees of the Israel Electric Corporation and Mekorot (NIS 15,786 (approximately $3587 )) followed by workers in banks, insurance and finance (NIS 12,652) (approximately $2875), public administration (NIS 10,090) (approximately $2290) and industry (NIS 9,009 (approximately $2047). The lowest salaries were paid to workers in communal services (NIS 4,595 (approximately $1044), agriculture (NIS 4,511 (approximately $1025)) and restaurants and hotels.


Asteroids Named after Columbia Space Shuttle’s Seven Astronauts
Seven asteroids circling the sun have been named after the seven astronauts who perished in the Columbia space shuttle accident, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and his fellow crew members Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown and Laurel Clark died on February 1, when Columbia broke up while returning to Earth after a 16-day mission. The idea to rename the asteroids, whose course takes them between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, came from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and was approved by the International Astronomical Union. The appelation was announced on Wednesday by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Minor Planet Center, the official naming agency of asteroids.

“Asteroids have been around for bullions of years and will remain for billions more,” Raymond Bambery, head of NASA’s JPL Near-Earth Asteroid Tracing Project, said in a statement. “I like to think that in the years, decades and millennia ahead people will look to the heavens, locate these seven celestial sentinels and remember the sacrifice made by the Columbia astronauts.”


Other News in Brief

* The FBI has joined in the searches for Tiberias teen Dana Bennet and American yeshiva student Eliezer Zussiya Klughoft in northern Israel, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported.

Bennet holds dual Israeli and American citizenship, and her father and brother – who came from the United States to join in the search for her – have asked U.S. authorities for assistance. The searches for Klughoft, who went missing after visiting holy sites in the North, are concentrated in the area between Mount Meron and Safed.

* Thousands of worshippers gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem today to commemorate Tisha B’av, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported. The worshippers prayed and marched around the walls of the Old City. This fast day is considered the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, marking the anniversary of the destruction of the two temples. Worshippers were not allowed on the Temple Mount.


Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Bank Hapoalim owns enough options in El Al to own 5 percent of the company if the options are ever turned into shares, HA’ARETZ reported. The bank bought the shares for its own portfolio, for some NIS 3-4 million because the bank wants to be involved in shareholder meetings, since El Al owes the bank $530 million and is the bank’s largest single creditor. The airline’s IPO was in June of this year, with 15 percent of the company’s shares released onto the market, while 76 percent of the company became available through options. Most of those who have so far made purchases have bought options and not shares. The options can be exercised in the next 18 months.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Adina Kay, Matthew Miller, Adar Zango and Victor Chemtob at The Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Friday, August 8, 2003 —

** Soldier Killed in Counter-Terror Operation at Askar Camp
** Israel Enforces Additional Confidence-Building Measures; Mofaz Warns against Existing Terror Threats
** Hizbullah Fires at Israeli Positions along Northern Border
** Cuban Jews Arrive In Israel for a Visit
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs


Soldier Killed in Counter-Terror Operation at Askar Camp
Staff Sergeant Roi Oren, 20, a special unit soldier, was killed today during an Israel Defense Forces counter-terror operation in the Askar refugee camp east of Nablus, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. He was buried this afternoon in Udim’s Cemetery. Oren belonged to the IDF’s elite naval commando unit Shayetet 13, which entered the Askar refugee camp at 4:30 A.M. to arrest wanted Hamas terrorists. Two top Hamas bomb makers were killed during the raid. Acting on an intelligence tip, the soldiers surrounded a three-story building where the two wanted terrorists, Khamis Abu Salem and Said Fadder – both involved in attacks against Israelis – were hiding. The troops called out to the fugitives to surrender; in response the two men opened fire, killing Staff Sgt. Roi Oren. Soldiers responded with machine gun fire and launched an anti tank rocket at the building killing the two men.

Judea and Samaria Divisional commander Brig.Gen. Gadi Eizencot explained that,” since the truce was declared on June 29, security forces have thwarted scores of attacks especially in the Nablus area." Despite a decrease in the number of terror threats in recent weeks, "a little luck and the intense operations by IDF forces," have foiled numerous attacks he added. "We are committed to protecting and safeguarding the citizens of Israel, IDF forces operate throughout the West Bank except in Bethlehem,” he said. “We will continue such operations until we see effective actions carried out by the Palestinian Authority to combat terror."

In other news, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported that in the village of Irtach, south of Tulkarem, soldiers discovered a large explosive device today. The bomb weighed 35 kilograms and was hidden in a truck. Sappers safely detonated the device.

In Ramallah, armed Palestinians shot and killed a resident of the village of Silbad, Ahmed Sachror, who they suspected of collaborating with Israel.


Israel Enforces Additional Confidence-Building Measures – Mofaz Warns against Existing Terror Threats
In the spirit of continuing confidence building measures for the U.S.-backed roadmap, Israel eased on travel restrictions in various location in the West Bank on Thursday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The Israel Defense Forces opened up two roads to Palestinian traffic in the Jenin area, one between Yabad and Jenin and the other from Tura al-Arbiya to the west. The road leading to Yabad was closed almost three years ago by security forces with the outbreak of violence. The changes will affect the 70,000 residents of Yabad and the surrounding villages, who will be able to enter and leave Jenin unrestricted. In addition, IDF eased travel restrictions from Hebron to villages located south of the city and roads were opened by the Palestinian village of Tekoa, Bethlehem and Beit Kahil Bridge. Also, in the Gaza Strip, the operating hours of the Rafiah crossing were extended and Israel issued 5000 work permits to Palestinian laborers, who work in Israel.

In an interview with THE JERUSALEM POST, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz said that there was overall improvement in the security situation and an improved sense of security. He cautioned however, that a number of the terrorist cells were still actively involved in attacks against Israel and received their support from abroad, mainly from Iran, Hizbullah and Saudi Arabia. “We are not going to let the decrease in attacks blind us to the fact that the terrorist infrastructures are getting stronger,” Mofaz said.

He added, that Iran’s involvement with terrorism was illustrated through its affiliation with Hizbullah, its support and instruction of Palestinian terrorist organizations and “more gravely,” recent actions in acquiring surface-to-surface long-range ballistic missiles.

Mofaz said that Palestinian terrorist organizations had two sets of leadership: One within the territories and one outside, mainly in Damascus. “During the conflict, the strength of the local leadership increased naturally, because of its direct involvement in the violence and terrorism. Now, as the local leadership has agreed to a temporary cease-fire, their power has decreased and the leadership abroad has been strengthened, because it objects to the cease-fire,” Mofaz said. Mofaz believes that the leadership outside of the West Bank and Gaza Strip constitutes a threat to the Palestinian Authority, “because they are becoming an alternative leadership for the Palestinian people.”

“If you ask me when is a good time to evaluate the overall situation, I believe that at the end of September, where all three dates come together; three years since the start of the conflict; three months since the start of the hudan (cease-fire) and the end of Palestinian Authority Minister of Interior Mohammad Dahlan’s 90-day plan to work against the terrorist infrastructures,” Mofaz said. He added that if there was an increase in the Palestinian terrorist organization armament and strengthening, “we will get to a point where we will have to tell the PA, “Either you’re going to take care of this or we are.”


Hizbullah Fires at Israeli Positions along Northern Border
Israeli artillery and fighter planes struck at Hizbullah positions north of Mount Dov today, after the Lebanese group fired mortal shells and missiles at the Israel Defense Forces positioned along the northern border, HA’ARETZ reported. The exchange of fire lasted over an hour. Israeli positions in the Mount Dov and Hermon came under attack at 9:40 a.m. and there was no immediate word on casualties from the Hizbullah attack or the Israeli retaliatory fire.

An IDF spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that there had been "massive Hizbullah fire," during which the terrorist group "fired anti-tank missiles, light weapons fire and mortars at several IDF posts." Two Hizbullah shells reportedly hit the towns of Masadeh and Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights. The attack by the Lebanon-based group drew an almost immediate response from the IDF, which had been on high alert. This is the first time IDF positions have come under attack from the Lebanese terrorists since January 21 this year.


Cuban Jews Arrive In Israel for First Visit
Ten Cuban Jews arrived at the Kotel on Thursday, after a year of tough negotiations to bring the first group of Cuban Jews to Israel, HA’ARETZ reported. Israel and Cuba have had no diplomatic ties since Cuba severed relations following the1973 Yom Kippur War. The Cuban government was reluctant to give the Jews permission to make the trip, fearing they would not return.

"This is just wonderful, and very emotional,” Yohandi Crespo, 25, said. Crespo came from the town of Camaguey, which has a small community of 80 Jews. The 10-day educational visit was organized by the Taglit-birthright Israel program, an Israeli government-backed plan that sponsors trips to Israel for Jewish youth. It is the first such group to visit, though some Cuban Jews have come to Israel on their own. Organizers said that it took more than a year of work to persuade the Cuban government to allow the group to participate in the project which brings about 15,000 young Jewish adults from around the world to Israel each year.

Originally just eight young Jews were due to come, but Cuban authorities insisted that two of the leaders of the Jewish community accompany them to ensure that all returned, Harriet Gimpel of Birthright said. David Tacher, 52, from Santa Clara, who was appointed to accompany the group, said if all return home, it would ensure that future visits would be allowed.

"We just had to explain to the government why it was important for us as Jews to come to Israel," William Miller, a Jewish community leader from Havana said. "They understood our reasons," Miller said. The 10 had to fly to Israel via Canada, and the Canadian Jewish community also partly funded the journey. For the group, many of whom had never been out of Cuba before, the trip to Israel was an emotional religious experience. "I feel like I am walking in the Bible," Miller said. "You read about all these places and now we are here," he said, pointing at the Western Wall. "I want to see the customs, the history, the people," said Victoria Delgado Farzin, 23, a telecommunications worker from Santiago de Cuba. "These are the things that unite all the Jewish people in the world," she said.


Other News in Brief

* U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday allowed the Palestinian Authority to
maintain their office in Washington by waiving for another six months a law that would require it to be closed, HA’ARETZ reported. The law, which mandates the "downgrade in status of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) office in the United States," has been waived every six months since its passage. "I hereby determine that it is in the national security interest of the United States to waive that sanction," Bush said in a written memorandum released in Crawford, Texas where he is spending a month-long working vacation.

* Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who saved some 2,500 Jewish children from the Holocaust, is being honored for her "courage and compassion" with an award from the U.S.-based American Center of Polish Culture, HA’ARETZ reported. Sendler, along with 20 helpers, smuggled the children out of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 and 1943, safely placing them with Polish families. Now 93, she has already won a medal from Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. She was nominated for the U.S. center’s annual Jan Karski award by the Warsaw-based Children of the Holocaust Association


Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Manufacture of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system will be transferred to the United States in the first half of 2004, GLOBES reported. Boeing will produce the missile at its California plant. Senior Boeing executives said the company was still negotiating with subcontractors to manufacture the missile in the United States, and that negotiations with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), the Arrow’s original manufacturer, were not yet complete. IAI and Boeing have signed an agreement in principle to transfer Arrow manufacture to the United States. A key aim of the measure is to reduce production costs, thereby enabling the IDF to expand its operational deployment of the Arrow.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by David Nekrutman, Jonathan Schienberg, Dina Wosner and Victor Chemtob at The Consulate General of Israel in New York.