Choose Day Below
Astronauts Killed in Space Shuttle Disaster
** Ilan Ramon – Portrait of an Israeli Hero
** Other Crew Members’ Profiles
** Rona Ramon: Ilan Will Stay an Angel
** News Briefs
** Economic Briefs
Astronauts Killed in Space Shuttle Disaster
The seven astronauts onboard Space shuttle Columbia – Col. Rick Husband, Commander William McCool, Lt. Col. Michael Anderson, Capt., Dave Brown, Dr. Kalpana Chawla, Dr. Laurel Clark, and the first Israeli astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon – were killed on Saturday after the shuttle disintegrated in flames 200,000 feet over Texas, minutes before it was scheduled to land in Florida, HA’ARETZ reported. The shuttle was 16 minutes from landing when it broke apart. The crew had been expected to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 9:16 A.M but at approximately 9 A.M, Mission Control abruptly lost all data and voice contact with the shuttle and crew. At the same time, residents of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana reported hearing "a big bang" and seeing flames in the sky. "Columbia is lost; there are no survivors," President George W. Bush announced.
NASA appointed a panel on Sunday to investigate the Columbia tragedy, and said a more detailed analysis of the mission’s final minutes had focused on a sharp buildup of heat on the left side of the craft shortly before it disintegrated. "We are gaining confidence that it was a thermal problem," Ron Dittemore, the shuttle’s program manager, said. "It is too early for me to speculate on what all that means," he added. "I don’t have any smoking gun."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. President George W. Bush exchanged condolences over the telephone. A spokesperson for Bush said, "The president said he knows that aboard the shuttle was a brave Israeli, Colonel Ilan Ramon, and asked that the Ramon family receive the condolences of the entire American people as well as his personal condolences. He also expressed solidarity with them at this difficult time in their lives."
Addressing the cabinet on Sunday, Sharon said: "On behalf of the government and people of Israel, I would like to send our sincerest condolences to the families of the American astronauts, to US President George W. Bush, and to the American people. It is at times like these that we feel our common fate, identity and values, and shared vision, which we realized during Col. Ilan Ramon’s journey into space."
"The seven astronauts who perished yesterday in the space shuttle Columbia disaster are part of the heavy price that the human race must pay in its quest for knowledge and in its desire to explore other worlds. Their deaths will not be in vain. Mankind’s journey into space will continue. US-Israeli cooperation in this endeavor will continue as well. The day will come when other Israeli astronauts will be launched into space. I am certain that the memory of Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first space pioneer, will be etched in our hearts."
US Ambassador to Israel Daniel C. Kurtzer was also present at the cabinet meeting on Sunday. "Our two nations shared joy and admiration for the heroism and bravery of the crew. We shared hopes and dreams of the advances that this mission promised for the betterment of humankind", Kurtzer said. "In paying tribute to these heroes, our two nations can draw on deep reservoirs of courage, character and fortitude. As we share triumphs, we also share misfortune."
In an unusual move, NASA agreed on Sunday to allow an Israeli expert to participate in the examination and identification process with regard to the body parts found over the past two days in the area in which the Columbia space shuttle crashed to earth. The Israel Defense Forces’ attaché to the United States, Major General Moshe Ivri-Sukenik, noted that he had stressed to the NASA representatives the significance Israel and the Jewish religion placed on the identification of the body parts of astronaut Ilan Ramon and his burial in Israel. He explained Israel’s wish to play an active role in the search and identification operation.
Ramon – Portrait of an Israeli Hero
Ilan Ramon, born June 20,1954, in Tel Aviv was married to Rona, and the two have four children. Ramon graduated from high school in 1972 and began his military service and later attended flight-training school. Long before he received his college degree at 33, he distinguished himself in combat. He participated in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and in 1974, Ramon graduated as a fighter pilot from IAF Flight School. From 1974-1976 he participated in A-4 Basic Training and Operations and from 1976-1980 he was in Mirage III-C training and operations programs.
In 1980, as part of IAF efforts to establish the first F-16 squadron in Israel, Ramon attended the F-16 Training Course at Hill Air Force Base, Utah and served as the Deputy Squadron Commander B, F-16 Squadron. In 1981, Ramon was one of eight Israeli F-16 pilots who obliterated the French-built Osiraq reactor near Baghdad in a lightning raid that shocked the world. The next year he flew missions over Lebanon as part of Operation Peace for Galilee. From 1983-1987, he attended Tel Aviv University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in electronics and computer engineering. From 1988-1990, he was Deputy Squadron Commander A, F-4 Phantom Squadron and during 1990, he attended the Squadron Commanders Course. From 1990-1992, he served as Squadron Commander, F-16 Squadron and had recorded a total of 1,000 flight hours in his F-16 by 1992. He accumulated more than 3,000 flight hours on the A-4, Mirage III-C, and F-4.
Ramon received the rank of colonel in 1994 and took over control of the air force’s weapon development and acquisition department. In 1997, he was selected to be Israel’s first astronaut, and began training at NASA a year later. He was promised a launch as early as 1999, but for several reasons, his flight – and the flight of an atmospheric dust-measuring experiment sponsored by Israel – was delayed. For Columbia Space Shuttle Mission STS-107, Ramon, as a member of the Red Team, was the prime crewmember for the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX), a multispectral camera that measured small dust particles (dust aerosols) in the atmosphere over the Mediterranean and the Saharan coast of the Atlantic. He worked with the following experiments: European Space Agency Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System (ARMS); Astroculture (AST-1 and 2); Biological Research in Canister – Development of Gravity Sensitive Plant Cells in Microgravity (BRIC); Combustion Module (CM-2), which included the Laminar Soot Processes (LSP), Water Mist Fire Suppression (MIST) and Structures of Flame Balls at Low Lewis-number (SOFBALL) experiments; the Microbial Physiology Flight Experiments Team (MPFE) experiments, which included the Effects of Microgravity on Microbial Physiology and Spaceflight Effects on Fungal Growth, Metabolism and Sensitivity to Anti-fungal Drugs; the Physiology and Biochemistry Team (PhAB4) suite of experiments, which included Calcium Kinetics, Latent Virus Shedding, Protein Turnover and Renal Stone Risk; and Space Technology and Research Students Bootes (STARS Bootes).
The son of an Auschwitz death camp survivor, Ramon planned a tribute to those who endured the Holocaust during his space flight – he carried up a small pencil drawing titled "Moon Landscape" by Peter Ginz, a 14-year-old Jewish boy who was killed at Auschwitz. He also packed a credit-card sized microfiche of the Bible given to him by President Moshe Katsav and some mezuzot – cases containing excerpts from the Bible that are affixed to the door in Jewish houses.
The Israel Defense Forces created a special e-mail address where the public may express its condolences to the Ramon family and to the people of the State of Israel on the loss of Col. Ilan Ramon in the Columbia space shuttle tragedy. The e-mail address is [email protected].
Crew Members’ Profiles
Rick Husband, 45, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, was a test pilot and veteran of one space flight. He served as commander on Columbia Space Shuttle Mission STS-107. Husband received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University in 1980 and a master of science in mechanical engineering from California State University-Fresno in 1990. As commander, Husband was responsible for the overall conduct of the mission. During the mission, he maneuvered Columbia as part of several experiments in the shuttle’s payload bay that focused on the Earth and the Sun. Selected by NASA in December 1994, Husband served as the pilot of STS-96 in 1999 – a 10-day mission during which the crew performed the first docking with the International Space Station. Prior to STS-107, Husband had logged more than 235 hours in space.
William C. McCool, 41, a commander in the U.S. Navy, was a former test pilot. He served as pilot for STS-107. He received a bachelor of science in applied science from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983, a master of science in computer science from the University of Maryland in 1985, and a master of science in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1992. Selected by NASA in April 1996, McCool was making his first space flight.
Michael P. Anderson, 43, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, was a former instructor pilot and tactical officer, and a veteran of one space flight. He served as Payload Commander and Mission Specialist 3 for STS-107. As payload commander he was responsible for the success (management) of the science mission aboard STS-107. Anderson received a bachelor of science in physics/astronomy from University of Washington in 1981 and a master of science in physics from Creighton University in 1990. Selected by NASA in December 1994, Anderson flew on STS-89 in 1998 – the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission. Prior to STS-107, Anderson logged over 211 hours in space.
David M. Brown, 46, a captain in the U.S. Navy, was a naval aviator and flight surgeon. He served as Mission Specialist 1 for STS-107. Brown received a bachelor of science in biology from the College of William and Mary in 1978 and a doctorate in medicine from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1982. Selected by NASA in April 1996, Brown was making his first space flight.
Kalpana Chawla, 41, was an aerospace engineer and an FAA Certified Flight Instructor. Chawla served as Flight Engineer and Mission Specialist 2 for STS-107. She received a bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India, in 1982, a master of science in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas-Arlington in 1984, and a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1988. Selected by NASA in December 1994, Chawla was the prime robotic arm operator on STS-87 in 1997, the fourth U.S. Microgravity Payload flight. STS-87 focused on how the weightless environment of space affects various physical processes. Prior to STS-107, Chawla logged more than 376 hours in space.
Laurel Clark, 41, a commander (captain-select) in the U.S. Navy and a naval flight surgeon, was Mission Specialist 4 on STS-107. Clark received a bachelor of science in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983 and a doctorate in medicine from the same school in 1987. Selected by NASA in April 1996, Clark was making her first space flight.
"He was happy in space, with the people he loved, in the place he loved. Sixteen days he floated in a dream. He didn’t only dream – he made his dream come true. Ilan was the best of the best, and it is not a coincidence that he was chosen to become the first Israeli astronaut." "He was a happy and an optimistic person. When he left for space, he left us this wonderful feeling that we are also part of this amazing thing. He had to write a will but at the end didn’t because he thought it was unnecessary. He always had a smile and he wanted us to keep on smiling. We are not falling apart. We are strong for Ilan’s sake. We will keep his spiritual will alive and he would want us to be happy, calm and smiling."
Ramon, wearing a shirt with the NASA symbol and accompanied by her sister from Israel, said that she was not afraid during the days her husband was in space:
"I knew that if the launching went well, there would be nothing to worry about because usually the malfunctions are during the launch and not during the landing. The only thing that tears me apart now is that during the liftoff, when we were all in high spirits, my youngest daughter, Noa, looked at the sky and said, ‘I lost my daddy.’ She felt what we didn’t allow ourselves to think about, as if she knew this was the last time."
"We stood and waited at the end of runway for the landing. It was a beautiful day and the clock was ticking. When it got down to 10 seconds, we started a countdown, just like in the liftoff, to hear the sonic booms. But they didn’t come. We started to worry, and then they took us to the side and told us that they didn’t know what had happened, but we already knew. I didn’t even have to tell the kids, they knew immediately".
Ramon explained that when they returned to their home there were several e-mails from Ilan awaiting them:
"Ilan sent the e-mails in the last minutes before the landing. One of them was a thank-you letter to Shimon Peres for helping him fulfill his dream of becoming an astronaut. Peres and President Clinton started the project of sending an Israeli to space. The rests were personal letters to the family. He wanted us to read them together."
"We and the families of the other astronauts are a one big supporting family. We are bound in a magnificent way. The other crewmembers were close friends of Ilan’s. The only thing that gives me any comfort is that they had such a good time [in space] and loved one another. They were simply a group of angels and that’s how they will stay."
"I know that Ilan would want the space program to continue and I also support it. It’s a great mission for humanity and despite the tragedy it should go on."
Family members and close friends, including Ilan’s father and brother, arrived on Sunday in Houston to be with Rona and her four children. A team headed by Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon is also in Houston to help and give support to the family. The family, as well as official Israeli representatives, is slated to attend NASA’s official memorial service for the seven astronauts killed aboard the Columbia on Tuesday.
*Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today that Labor would not join a national unity government. Meanwhile, Shinui and Likud party representatives met today with President Moshe Katsav to discuss forming a coalition government.
*IDF forces arrested six Palestinian terror suspects overnight, including Tanzim members in Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem. On Sunday, Israel Defense Forces blew up a tunnel used for smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip, located near Rafiah along the Egyptian-Israeli border. Also, IDF forces demolished the Hebron homes Tanzim member Mohammed Amran, responsible for carrying out a shooting attack that killed Shalhevet Pass two years ago.
*A group of Israeli-Arabs will make a trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp in May with the purpose of learning its roots and its affect on the Jewish community. The Arab participants will include author Mohammed Ali Taher, attorney Ahmed Masalha from the village of Daburiya, and businessmen Ali Kadmani and Ahmed Afifi. The idea of the trip came from Father Emil Shufani, a priest and educator from Nazareth.
*The Indian army will send thousands of troops to Israel for training to fight Islamic militants in Kashmir.
*The Israeli telecommunications billing giant Amdocs is in talks to cooperate with its Chinese competitor Asiainfo which develops software for billing and messages, HA’ARETZ reported. Capital market sources say Amdocs is also examining an option to acquire the company in its bid to penetrate the Chinese and Asian telecommunications markets where Asiainfo is the dominant player. The deal would likely carry a much higher price tag than Asiainfo’s current market value of $175 million.
*Exports to Mexico, a member of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA), rose 23 percent to $190 million in 2002, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. According to the Trade Ministry officials, the Israel – Mexico Free Trade Agreement is behind the growth in business between both nations. Recently, representatives of 19 Israeli agricultural firms visited Mexico, and took part in Expo Agrosinaloa, an international convention dealing with environmental resources and agriculture.
to Ask for Another Space Trip
Israel will be asking the U.S. to approve the training of another Israeli astronaut, the JERUSALEM POST reported. It is still not certain when the request will be made, though it could come up as early as today when President George W. Bush is scheduled to receive the family of Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who went down aboard the Columbia space shuttle on Saturday. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged Sunday that other Israeli astronauts will be launched into space. "Their deaths were not in vain. Man’s journey into space will continue. Cooperation between the United States and Israel in this field will also continue and a day will come when we will launch more Israeli astronauts into space," Sharon said on Sunday during a brief ceremony.
Nearly 2,000 people gathered at the synagogue Beth Yeshurun in Houston on Monday for a memorial service in honor of Ilan Ramon. Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s Ambassador to the Washington, D.C., attended the service. Commenting on Ramon’s influence on Israeli society, Ayalon said: "Ilan Ramon is a national hero who possessed a very strong identity as a Jew, as an Israeli. I think his personal story embodies the true triumph of the Jewish people."
Transfers $60 million to PA
Israel transferred approximately $60 million in taxes to the Palestinian Authority on Monday. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to hand the money over to the PA on condition that an international monitoring body be set up to make sure that the money did not end up being used to finance terrorist operations.
Law Goes Into Effect
The Tal Law, which is meant to enable married and single yeshiva students to take a year off from studies to enter the labor force – and be drafted to the army – went into effect at the beginning of this month, HA’ARETZ reported. The law, a temporary regulation due to expire in another four and a half years, was passed last year and is meant to end the anomaly of yeshiva students not being able to enter the job market because of their draft deferment to study Torah, and to channel at least some of them into some form of national service. Starting February 1, a yeshiva student over the age of 22 can go to the local draft board and ask to begin what the law terms "the year of decision," during which they can legally work, and then decide whether to return to yeshiva or accept a draft into national service.
Arrests Islamic Jihad Men Responsible for Hebron, Otniel Attacks
Israel Defense Forces troops arrested senior Islamic Jihad terrorist Bader Aymouni today in Hebron, HA’ARETZ reported. Aymouni is responsible for the November 15, 2002 attack in Hebron that killed 12 Israelis, and the December 27, 2002 attack at the Otniel community that left four students dead. He surrendered himself to IDF. In all, 17 members of Aymouni’s Islamic Jihad terror cell have been arrested and according to security officials they received orders from the organization’s headquarters in Damascus. Three other members of the cell, including its leader – for Diab Shweiki – are still at large.
Meanwhile, a 27-year-old man was shot in a Palestinian ambush near the Gaza Strip community of Kfar Darom today, sustaining light to moderate injuries. The gunman escaped and the IDF is conducting a search of the area.
The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Monday that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will have to pay the Egged bus cooperative $11 million for loss of income and damages from terrorists attacks and homicde bombings caused by the PA, HA’ARETZ reported. Egged claimed that 15-20 percent of its passengers had stopped using buses as a direct result of these incidents. Since the start of the intifada, 53 attacks have been carried out on Egged buses, 20 of them by homicide bombers, resulting in the death of 200 people.
* The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology announced that they are establishing a joint research and education program in molecular medicine and biomedical engineering, GLOBES reported. The collaboration will begin with five research projects in the fields of cardiology and orthopedics. The projects, set to begin at the end of the month, will focus on tissue engineering, heart stem-cell research, and fine mechanics and sophisticated robotics in orthopedics. The projects are being funded by a two-year grant from the Zielony Fund.
* Carmel Ventures has launched a secondary fund to be jointly managed by Alan Feld and Carmel Ventures, GLOBES reported. The fund has already began investment procedures, and has signed a number of investment pledges with Israeli venture capital funds. It is believed that the fund will shortly close its first deal. Carmel Ventures’ investment focus is software. It has invested in nine companies to date, including Actimize, a developer of fraud detection software, and Red Bend Software, which develops solutions for efficient deployment of software updates. Carmel Ventures invested in both companies’ early stages. Carmel Ventures manages $170 million from investors such as AOL-Time Warner, Citigroup, Siemens and other companies.
of Israeli Astronaut Ilan Ramon Identified
** Patriots Fired in Joint Israeli, U.S. Anti-Missile Exercise
** Israeli Relief Forum Coordinates Worldwide Disaster Aid
** Israel to Play First International Soccer Game at Home since October 2001
of Israeli Astronaut Ilan Ramon Identified
NASA officials announced today that the remains of Israel’s first astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon, have been positively identified, HA’ARETZ reported. The remains of Col. Ramon, who perished Saturday morning along with the six American astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia, are to be sent to Israel for burial in a military ceremony. "The identification is certain, and was carried out by NASA experts, with the participation of a member of the IDF rabbinate, at our request," Israeli Air Force Brigadier-General Ronnie Falk, IAF liaison to the United States, said. According to Jewish law, if remains are not found, a funeral is not possible.
The NASA announcement came twelve hours after the memorial service held in Houston, which opened with the reading of a Hebrew prayer by a U.S. Navy Rabbi. Speaking of Col. Ramon, U.S. President George Bush said he was "a patriot, the devoted son of a Holocaust survivor, who served his country in two wars." Afterwards, President Bush promised Minister of Finance Silvan Shalom, Israel’s representative at the memorial service, that America and Israel would continue to cooperate in the space program.
Fired in Joint Israeli, U.S. Anti-Missile Exercise
Israeli and American troops fired a number of Patriot missiles at simulated incoming Scud missiles in a joint military exercise conducted on February 4 in Israel’s Negev desert, MA’ARIV reported. Military analysts believe the firing of the Patriot missiles is linked to Israel’s heightened state of preparedness in the face of an Iraqi Scud missile threat. The maneuvers began two weeks ago and followed Israel’s successful multiple launch of four Arrow missile interceptors at the beginning of January.
About 200 U.S. soldiers have been in Israel since mid-January as part of the joint maneuvers code-named "Juniper Cobra," a biennial event that has been tailored this year to anticipate any American operation against Iraq.
In the 1991 Gulf War, Patriot missiles fired in Israel’s defense failed to intercept incoming Scud missiles and according to military analysts, caused more harm than good. The February 4 Negev firing tested an upgraded version of the Patriot that has been reprogrammed to deal with incoming missiles.
Israeli officials believe the Arrow, jointly developed by Israel and the United States at a cost of $2 billion, is a significant improvement over the U.S.-made Patriot, which intercepts incoming missiles at a lower altitude. Two batteries of Arrow missile interceptors have been positioned at Ein Shemer and at Palmahim to provide an umbrella of defense against a possible Iraqi attack. Three batteries of Patriots have also been set up and two additional batteries of Patriot missiles are expected to arrive on a two-year loan from Germany. The German Patriot batteries will be manned by Israeli soldiers and should be operational by the end of February.
Relief Forum Coordinates Worldwide Disaster Aid
A humanitarian forum called IsraAID is helping to coordinate Israeli efforts in providing aid to disaster areas across the globe, ISRAEL21C reported. Last week representatives of a dozen Israeli and Jewish humanitarian organizations gathered at Kibbutz Yakum north of Tel Aviv, under the IsraAid umbrella, to look at ways of pooling their respective resources in the most efficient manner, for the benefit of needy people the world over. The guiding light behind the IsraAid initiative is Shahar Zahavi, a veteran relief worker at the sites of several global disasters. "The forum has three basic premises," Zahavi said. "The most important one is coordination between the various groups and pooling their resources to ensure those in need benefit from them. The second factor is to let the world know that Israelis are also willing to contribute to the world. Our material resources may be limited but we have a huge amount of expertise – in agriculture, rescue operations, and emergency medical assistance. There really is very little knowledge in the world about what we do. We also want to get our message across in the countries we help. In my experience, people have responded well to us because they view our work as people helping other people, without the political element."
Israel is at the forefront of worldwide efforts in providing disaster assistance whenever tragedies strike. The Israeli Army’s Home Front Command Search and Rescue unit has participated in dozens of rescue missions in recent years including sending teams to:
Nairobi, Kenya in 1998, following a terrorist bombing of the US Embassy; Kosovo, April 1999, in the aftermath of the conflict; Turkey, August 1999, following an earthquake; Greece, September 1999, following an earthquake; Turkey, November 1999, following an earthquake; India, Feburary 2001, following an earthquake.
to Play First International Soccer Game at Home since October 2001
Israel is to play Armenia in a friendly soccer game next Wednesday in Ramat Gan, HA’ARETZ reported. Israel has not hosted a soccer game since October 2001 when the European body UEFA, citing safety concerns, banned Israel from playing matches at home. Friendly games, however, are governed by the international body FIFA, and FIFA has not yet enacted any such restrictions. Israel will play its Euro 2004 qualifying Group One home games in Palermo, Italy. Meanwhile, Israeli tennis player Anna Smashanova was ranked 15th in the world in rankings published this morning. Smashanova’s ranking makes her Israel’s highest rated tennis player ever.
Yisrael B’Aliya’s is conducting negotiations with the Likud on a possible merger of the two parties, MA’ARIV reported. The idea of merging the two parties came up following Yisrael B’Aliya’s poor showing in last week’s general elections, in which the party dropped from four Knesset seats to two. In exchange for the merger, the party has requested that its leader, Natan Sharansky, be appointed as a cabinet minister in the next Government. Sharansky held the portfolio of Minister of Housing and Construction in the previous Government.
IDF Soldiers Killed Near Nablus Laid to Rest
** Israeli Security Services Foiled Several Planned Attacks on Election Day
** EU Anti-Fraud Office to Investigate Alleged Palestinian Aid Abuse
** Yisrael b’Aliyah and Likud Merge
** News In Brief
** Economic Briefs
IDF Soldiers Killed Near Nablus Laid to Rest
Second Lieutenant Amir Ben-Aryeh, 21, from Reut, and Staff Sergeant Idan Suzin, 20, from Kiryat Tivon were killed today by two gunmen who opened fire and threw hand grenades at their base close to the West Bank city of Nablus, HA’ARETZ reported. This afternoon Suzin was laid to rest at the Kiryat Tivon cemetary, and Ben-Aryeh was buried at Hadid military cemetery, near Lod. Suzin had been guarding the base when the gunmen opened fire, killing him. Ben-Aryeh then led paratroopers in retaliation and during the course of the battle, he too was killed and two other soldiers were wounded, one moderately and one lightly. Israel Defense Forces troops killed both of the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the attack, Anan Hanani and Ahmed Hamed. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, the IDF arrested at least 20 Palestinians – at least one was a wanted Hamas terrorist – in the West Bank overnight. Seven were arrested in Beit Ula, between Bethlehem and Hebron, where IDF troops also discovered an ammunitions factory and weapons cache.
Security Services Foiled Several Planned Attacks on Election Day
The Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli Security Agency foiled several attempted terror attacks on Election Day January 28, 2003, HA’ARETZ reported. According to sources within the ISA, the most ambitious plan was devised by an Islamic Jihad cell in Jenin who intended to blow up four booby-trapped cars at different locations near the Green Line inside Israel, at the same time. Acting upon information gathered by the ISA, a large IDF force assisted by an undercover Border Police unit entered Jenin on January 28 and captured the terrorists. The Jenin cell has in the past been responsible for several successful car bomb attacks, including those at the Megiddo and Karkur Junctions. A week before the elections, security services foiled a similar attempt near Wadi Ara, when they captured a jeep laden with 400 kilograms of explosives that had been sent by the cell.
Security services also thwarted several attempts by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to send suicide bombers into Israel on January 28th. Bombers were to be sent from Nablus, from the villages of Tamun and Tubas in the northern Jordan Valley, and from Gaza, both directly and indirectly, via Egypt and the western Negev. The only election-day attack that did succeed was Hamas’s launch of Qassam rockets at the Negev town of Sderot, which damaged some houses but caused no casualties.
Anti-Fraud Office to Investigate Alleged Palestinian Aid Abuse
The European Union’s anti-fraud office (OLAF) said on Wednesday it had opened an investigation into the alleged misuse of EU funds donated to the Palestinian Authority, HA’ARETZ reported. A statement released by OLAF explained that the anti-fraud office had taken the decision to launch its probe after receiving incriminating information in recent months "from a number of different sources," including the media.
The EU is the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian Authority, donating 10 million euros ($10.86 million) each month to help pay the salaries of Palestinian public sector workers. In an unrelated initiative, members of the European Parliament revealed on Thursday, January 30, 2003 that they had raised enough signatures in the assembly to trigger the formation of a special committee of inquiry into the alleged misuse of aid to the Palestinians. The Parliament members claim that EU monies have been siphoned off by corrupt officials in the Palestinian Authority or used to fund attacks on Israeli civilians.
b’Aliyah and Likud Merge
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Yisrael b’Aliyah chairman Natan Sharansky signed an agreement today that unites their parties, providing Likud with 40 seats in the 120-member Knesset, HA’ARETZ reported. In addition, Sharansky is slated for a ministerial position in the next government, where he would be in charge of Diaspora affairs and Jerusalem. Sharansky is also likely to be a member of the inner security cabinet, while Yuli Edelstein, who is number two on the party’s list, is likely to be given a deputy ministerial post. Also today, President Moshe Katsav invited Sharon for a meeting Sunday afternoon where he is expected to ask the prime minister to form a government.
* Israeli Scientists Contribute to the Understanding of Human Fertilization In a breakthrough study of the Weizmann Institute, Israeli scientists have discovered how the sperm of mammals navigate their way through the female reproductive system directly to the egg they must fertilize, ISRAEL21C reported. According to the study, the sperm are attracted to the egg by its warm temperature, operating much like guided heat-seeking missiles that sense the heat of a plane’s engine. The heat-driven journey was previously known to exist in microorganisms and worms, but the Weizmann study has provided evidence of its existence in mammals for the first time and thus contributes to the understanding of fertilization in humans and other mammals. Team leader Prof. Michael Eisenbach of the Institute’s Biological Chemistry Department said the study "may make it possible in the future to make use of temperature guidance to improve in vitro fertilization."
* Blind Community to Receive Special Emergency Instructions in Case of War 600 instruction letters written in Braille, outlining how to react and what to do in an emergency during a possible war with Iraq, will be sent in the following days to members of the blind community, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. In addition, an instruction tape will be sent to the entire blind community in Israel – an estimated 30,000 people. The letter and tape will also teach how to calm down guide dogs during a possible attack on Israel. The initiative is sponsored by the IDF Home Front Command, the National Insurance Institute, the Commission for Equality for People with Disabilities, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and local authorities.
* In some promising news for the tourism industry, the Olive Tree Hotel in Jerusalem has signed a contract with a major tourism wholesaler to bring 800 Korean pilgrims to the hotel in February, HA’ARETZ reported. The Koreans will stay an average of three nights, generating revenues of $150,000. The Olive Tree’s manager, Ronit Hoter-Yishai, said that while other pilgrim groups had called off planned visits to Jerusalem because of the situation, the Koreans did not appear to be concerned by the situation in the Gulf and no cancellations had been registered.
* Broadband communications company Marvell announced that it was acquiring Israel’s Radlan Computer Communications, a provider of embedded networking software, GLOBES reported. Marvell already owned 9 percent of Radlan before the merger agreement. Radlan Computer Communications president and CEO Jacob Zankel said, "After many years of working together, we are excited to merge our team of top communications software experts with Marvell. This acquisition brings together complementary technologies, enabling Marvell to provide Radlan’s infrastructure software across all of its communications products to address the enterprise, access, wireless, and SAN markets."
Foiled after Explosive Belt Found in Taibeh Mosque
** Israel Reaches Out to Egypt, Jordan
** President Katsav to Ask Sharon to Form Government
** Israeli, Pakistani Tennis Players Receive Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award
** News in Brief
** Economic Briefs
Foiled after Explosive Belt Found in Taibeh Mosque
Security forces arrested two Islamic Jihad terrorists on their way to carry out a homicide attack in Israel on Thursday night, IDF RADIO reported. The two subsequently led Police Forces from the Sharon region to an explosive belt hidden in the toilet of a mosque in Taibeh. Police sappers worked for hours to remove the belt from the mosque and detonate it, thus avoiding any damage to the building. According to the Police, the belt, which contained 15 kilograms (approximately 33 lbs.) of explosives combined with many steel nails, was to be used in an attack inside Israel either on Thursday night or Friday morning. Police sources said that if the explosive had not been found and detonated, it could have harmed hundreds of worshipers arriving for morning prayers. The terrorists were caught at a roadblock near the village of Talusa, north of Nablus while traveling in a Palestinian cab and after the region had been put on high alert following intelligence warnings of a possible terrorist infiltration. Taibeh Mayor Salach Jabara provided assistance to police forces by dispatching volunteers to distribute leaflets explaining the events in the mosque.
In other news, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported on the background of Second Lieutenant Amir Ben-Aryeh, 21, from Reut, and Staff Sergeant Idan Suzin, 20, from Kiryat Tivon who were killed in a terrorist attack and laid to rest on Thursday, February 6, 2003. Ben-Aryeh volunteered to serve in the Paratroopers unit and went through an officers’ course. Ben-Aryeh’s friend Moran said that, "idealism and the personal challenge guided him in his decision to be an officer." Eitan Chazan, one of the soldiers who participated in the fight against the terrorists who killed Ben-Aryeh and Suzin, eulogized his ranking officer: "In your last moments, when the bullets where flying over our heads, you yelled out to all of us ‘you are not cowards, get up and fight.’ You fought with might and died as a hero protecting your children." Ben-Aryeh is survived by his parents and a brother. Suzin volunteered to serve in the Paratroopers unit. His sister Zohar said of him that, "he did everything to serve in the Paratroopers unit and was very proud to serve the country." Prior to Thursday’s attack, he had called his mother to tell her that he was organizing a special trip to the cemetery in Holon to commemorate the death of a comrade, St.-Sgt. Lee Akonis, shot near Ramallah a year ago. Suzin is survived by his parents and two siblings.
Reaches Out to Egypt, Jordan
Minister of Foreign Affairs Benjamin Netanyahu called his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Maher on Thursday, in a telephone conversation described by Maher as "an important dialogue," HA’ARETZ reported. Maher said that Netanyahu "stated his desire to begin a dialogue aimed at achieving peace." Maher said that he answered Netanyahu’s request by stating his "readiness to start a dialogue with him, on a sound basis, in order to achieve a just and global settlement" of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Netanyahu said that he told Maher he appreciated Egypt’s efforts to calm the region, but "that Israel has its own viewpoint on the right way to achieve calm." Signaling a rapprochement between Israel and Egypt, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had extended an invitation to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for talks at Sharm el Sheik last week. In other news, Israel and Jordan will hold high-level talks on Sunday, as part of an effort to expand strategic cooperation between the two countries. Sharon is sending the head of his bureau, attorney Dov Weisglass, and his diplomatic adviser, Shalom Turgeman, to meet with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher in Amman.
Katsav to Ask Sharon to Form Government
President Moshe Katsav has invited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the President’s residence this coming Sunday to formally hand him the mandate to form a coalition government, HA’ARETZ reported. Katsav completed his round of consultations with all the factions in the newly elected Knesset on Thursday, February 6, 2003. Eight factions, representing 87 Knesset members, recommended that he assign the task to Sharon. Five factions did not make any recommendation to the president about who should form the coalition. According to the Basic Law on the Government, Sharon will have 28 days to form a government. If this period is not sufficient, the President can decide extend it by a maximum of 14 days.
Pakistani Tennis Players Receive Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award
Israeli tennis player Amir Hadad and his Pakistani teammate Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi were awarded on Thursday, February 6, 2003, the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for their on-court partnership by the governing body of the men’s professional tennis, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), HA’ARETZ reported. Hadad and Qureshi teamed up for the first time to play doubles last year at Wimbledon, reaching the third round, and also played at the U.S. Open.
"During a summer when fear and hatred garnered much of the headlines, Amir and Aisam-ul-Haq provided much needed relief with their simple message about tolerance through tennis," ATP Chief Mark Miles said. "It’s fitting that we present the Arthur Ashe Award to these two players on the 10th anniversary of Arthur’s death, as Arthur remains the model for all of us on how athletes and sport can make a big difference in the lives of others."
Commenting on the pair’s unique relationship, Hadad said: "Quite a lot people come up to me and ask me when I was going to play with the Pakistani player again. I never heard anybody say, ‘Don’t play with him’ or something like that. In Israel everybody is pretty supportive about it." His colleague Qureshi said: "I was lucky to have my parents with me when I played with Amir. They also helped me and gave me confidence that I was doing the right thing. It’s good for the game. All my family and everybody back home were proud of me."
Arthur Ashe was the first African-American man to win the U.S. Open in 1968, Ashe captured 33 titles in his career, including Wimbledon in 1975. Off the court, Ashe worked tirelessly to eliminate racism and poverty around the world, particularly in segregated South Africa.
* The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization, issued a leaflet threatening Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Hani al Hassan today, HA’ARETZ reported. "The first case of a suicide attack against Palestinians, carried out by the Fatah military wing, will be against al Hassan, if he arrives in Nablus," a pamphlet distributed by masked men in Nablus said. The pamphlet warned Nablus residents and other Palestinians organizations not to accommodate Hassan or have any contact with him. The threat is apparently due to Hassan’s condemnation of the last homicide bombing attack in the Neve She’anan neighborhood in south Tel Aviv.
* Israel’s first astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon, will be laid to rest on Tuesday at the Nahalal military cemetery, HA’ARETZ reported. His remains will be flown to Israel in the coming days, along with members of the family. A full military ceremony will be held at his funeral that thousands are expected to attend, including senior politicians and Israel Defense Forces officers.
* The Ministry of Finance has prepared a plan that aims to institute broad cuts in the state budget for 2003 while simultaneously encouraging greater efficiency and privatization, HA’ARETZ reported. The ministry’s proposal recommends the privatization of state-owned companies, possibly by selling them on the stock exchange, and the implementation of policies that will promote the various provident funds’ involvement in the capital markets. It also advocates for the termination of the system known as the "autopilot," according to which the budget of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education grows by 2.5 percent each year. Recommending budgetary cuts of between NIS 7 and NIS 9 billion, the Finance Ministry aims to enforce a list of structural changes for the medium and long term, whose aim is to make the economy more efficient and to bring about financial growth.
* U.S. -based international voice carrier ITXC Corp announced that it has opened its first Israel sales office in Tel Aviv, GLOBES reported. In the past few months, ITXC has opened regional sales offices in India, Chile, Argentina, Germany, and Brazil. The company is rated the fastest growing technology company in North America, according to the 2002 Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 500 ranking.
* Marvell, a provider of broadband communications and storage solutions in Sunnyvale, California, has signed an agreement to acquire Israeli start-up company Radlan Computer Communications Ltd. at a company value of $54 million, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. "This acquisition brings together complementary technologies, enabling Marvell to provide Radlan’s infrastructure software across all of its communications products," Radlan president and CEO Jacob Zankel said.