Choose Day Below
To Be Buried in Israel
** IDF Thwarts Several Terrorist Attacks on Israel
** IDF Reserve Doctors to Train in Human Rights
** Katzav Invites Sharon to Form Israel’s Next Government
** Beginners Course for New MKs Opens
** Economic Briefs
To Be Buried in Israel
A memorial service for Israel’s first astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon, will be held this afternoon at an air force base in central Israel, MA’ARIV reported. Ramon and his six fellow American crew members were killed when their space shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas during its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere on February 1, following a 16-day research mission. His coffin is expected to arrive in Israel and immediately be taken to the base for the ceremony, which will be attended by hundreds of people including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, representatives of the Israel Defense Forces, the government, the Israel Space Agency, and NASA.
At the request of the family, Ramon will be laid to rest tomorrow at Moshav Nahalal, in the Jezreel Valley, where Ramon spent time during his military training and where he had close friends. The funeral will be attended by family and friends, and will be closed to the media. Ramon’s family has been living in Houston for the last four years, while he trained for the mission. They are expected to stay in Houston through the end of the school year.
In a letter to Ramon’s wife, Rona, the Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, promised to fulfill her husband’s wish to bring the crew’s families to visit Jerusalem. "My heart filled with pride and I’ll never forget how Ilan spoke of Jerusalem," Olmert wrote in his letter. "I was excited about working with Ilan to bring the astronauts and their families to Jerusalem and now circumstances have changed and I ask to fulfill his will with you."
The IDF is currently debating whether to promote Ramon to the military rank of Brigadier-General. In addition, a postal stamp will be issued in his memory.
Thwarts Several Terrorist Attacks on Israel
The Israel Defense Forces arrested three homicide bombers in the West Bank early this morning, one of whom was carrying a 20 kilogram explosive device, HA’ARETZ reported. The IDF arrested the Hamas homicide bomber near the West Bank city of Ramallah, and discovered the suitcase containing the 20 kilogram bomb that was ready to be detonated. Sappers detonated the device safely and police subsequently lowered the security alert that had been in place at the time.
Elsewhere, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was shot and killed by IDF forces near Nablus. There were no injuries to security forces during the operations.
IDF soldiers also arrested suspected terrorist Majdi Mahdhi Sallah Nazer in Nablus along with a second suspect in Kfar Yamoun near Jenin. Both are believed to have been planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel. In the Gaza Strip, troops arrested another Palestinian armed with fragmentation grenades, who was also en route to carry out an attack. In a separate incident, soldiers killed a Palestinian terrorist who was later found to be carrying three explosive devices on his body.
Meanwhile, an IDF source said Imad al-Mabruk, 25, was shot dead while trying to escape arrest in Ein Beit Elma refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinian security officials said Mabruk belonged to the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and that Israeli special forces had raided his hideout in the camp. "He was involved in terrorist attacks and made bombs," the Israeli military source said. "He fled arrest and was shot and killed after he ignored orders to stop."
In other news, early Monday morning, in the West Bank village of Sawarha, security forces demolished the home of Ramadan Eid Mashara, who orchestrated the June 2002 suicide bombing at Jerusalem’s Pat junction, in which 19 people were killed and 50 injured. An IDF spokesman said that Mashara is a known Hamas terrorist and that the demolition of his home is part of Israel’s ongoing war against terrorism and the Palestinian terror infrastructure.
Reserve Doctors to Train in Human Rights
The Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Medical Association and Physicians for Human Rights are to cooperate in a program to train army doctors who serve in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on issues involving human rights, HA’ARETZ reported. The IMA will train a team of volunteer doctors in various international treaties on human and medical rights, including wartime rights and treaties and the violations of those rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Every graduate doctor of the course will be equipped with a kit that includes relevant ethical and legal documents.
Two weeks ago, the heads of the various professional departments of the IMA met in Haifa for a conference on human rights in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to guarantee medical and health services for Palestinians. Prof. Avinoam Reches told reporters, "During the discussions, the request was made that doctors going to reserves take a course in human rights. I intend to make use of the know-how and experience of our colleagues in Physicians for Human Rights to that purpose," Reches said. The IDF Spokesman’s unit issued a statement saying, "Ethics in general and the matter of human rights and guaranteeing health and medical services is one of the main aspects of the day-to-day work of the Medical Corps."
Prof. Rafi Walden, head of surgery at Tel Hashomer and a member of the board of Physicians for Human Rights, said during the conference, "even at times of tension, the IDF has a moral and legal responsibility to make sure there is no obstruction of access to medical services for the residents. In effect, there is a civilian population that is denied direct access to health services."
Invites Sharon to Form Israel’s Next Government
President Moshe Katsav officially invited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to form Israel’s next government at a short ceremony in Jerusalem Sunday afternoon, MA’ARIV reported. Both Katsav and Sharon called for a national unity government with Sharon declaring that, "Whoever says no to unity – rejects the will of the Israeli public."
Katsav extended the official invitation to Sharon after factions comprising 87 Knesset members expressed their support for the prime minister. Katsav said Sharon’s public status, his vast experience, and the broad endorsement he received from the electorate guarantee his ability to form a government. By law, Sharon has 28 days to form a government, but he is allowed to request a 14-day extension. "Out of a sense of deep responsibility, I accept the task of setting up a new government in Israel," Sharon said. "Victory over terror, making peace and lifting the Israeli economy out of recession – these are the tasks of the new government, he added. Sharon also said that in order to accomplish these tasks, he required a government of "broad national agreement and concessions."
Thirty-six new members of the 16th Knesset arrived at the Knesset today to participate in an orientation day, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. The new MK’s were lectured on plenum matters, committees, legislation and ethics. They were also instructed on medical, security, budget and rights issues.
Knesset Secretary Aryeh Han opened the day by explaining the passage of legislation beginning with the proposal of a bill, bringing a bill to the plenum and setting a time for speech and debate. The Knesset’s legal advisor Anna Schneider followed with a lecture on legislation and ethics as Avi Levy, the Knesset’s accountant, instructed the new MK’s on budget entitlements and rights. In addition, the newcomers visited the Knesset’s medical clinic and received a security briefing. All new MKs will be sworn in on March 17, 2003
* Aminach, Israel’s largest chain of bedding stores, said it will open a chain of Aminach Center stores in the United States, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. CEO Roni Schwartz said the company is currently opening two stores in New York and one in Philadelphia. He added that the company hopes to open ten stores by the end of 2004. Aminach expects the first three stores to bring in sales of $3 million in 2003.
* Increased investment in infrastructure is the way to pull Israel’s economy out of its recession ever, according to a plan presented to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by consulting firm Economic Models CEO Ya’acov Sheinin and Teva chairman Eli Hurvitz, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. "Infrastructure is the most important issue when it comes to growth, " Sheinin said "The only thing to focus on is increasing utilization. There is high unemployment, and the utilities are not using their resources properly." Sheinin, who likened his plan to the Marshall Plan implemented in Europe by the United States after World War II, added that "there is a lag of 30 to 40 years in Israel’s infrastructure. It needs to be advanced."
Warnings Prompt Closure of West Bank and Gaza
** Israeli, PA Officials to Resume Cease-fire Talks
** Ilan Ramon Buried in Nahalal
** Israeli Volunteers Help Identify Remains of Columbia Astronauts
** Other News in Brief
** Economic Briefs
Warnings Prompt Closure of West Bank and Gaza
Several warnings of planned terrorist attacks prompted the Israel Defense Forces to enforce a rare full closure over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip overnight Monday, HA’ARETZ reported. As of late Monday, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had received 48 alerts of potential attacks, most of which planned in the immediate future by terror cells operating inside Israel. In addition, security sources said there was evidence that terror groups were working on "mega-attacks," aimed to strike at high-profile and symbolic targets and cause unusually large numbers of casualties and damage. Most of the alerts relate to Islamic Jihad or Hamas cells, but the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah are also believed to prepare attacks. The closing of Palestinian territories – scheduled to last until next Friday- overrules prior plans to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population ahead of a major Muslim holiday – Id El Adha – beginning Tuesday. Full closures are usually imposed only for Yom Kippur, Independence Day, and election days.
In other news, IDF paratroopers arrested today six Tanzim members and killed one Fatah-Tanzim terrorist trying to flee capture in a raid in the Kasbah area of the West Bank city of Nablus, ISRAEL RADIO reported. In the Gaza Strip, IDF troops opened fire on and killed a Palestinian terrorist as he neared the security fence along the Israeli border near the Kissufim crossing point.
PA Officials to Resume Cease-fire Talks
High-level talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials aimed at implementing a cease-fire between the two sides are to resume Tuesday evening, with a meeting between Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Hanial-Hassan and Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office Dov Weisglass, HA’ARETZ reported. The meeting follows a revelation that talks between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his advisors and high-ranking Palestinian officials took place both before and after Israel’s January 28 elections. Security chief al-Hassan and Weisglass reportedly met at the home of U.S.
Ambassador Dan Kurtzer last Thursday for talks on reaching a truce. On Friday, Sharon himself met at his Negev ranch with Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei (aka Abu Ala). Last week, Weisglass met with Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. These contacts aimed at reaching a phased truce agreement under which Palestinian police would initially be deployed in the West Bank towns of Tul Karm, Jenin, and Qalqilyah. In a second phase, the police would take up positions in Bethlehem and Gaza after IDF forces withdrew from these areas. The Israeli representatives to the talks promised that IDF forces would refrain from harming PA security forces installations, provided that the Palestinian security forces worked on preventing terrorists from carrying out terror attacks against Israel.
Ramon Buried in Nahalal
Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, was laid to rest this afternoon in a quiet ceremony in Moshav Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley, HA’ARETZ reported. The burial was attended by relatives and friends only. Israeli leaders eulogized Ramon on Monday evening in a memorial ceremony that took place shortly after his remains were flown home from the United States in a flag-draped coffin.
"We could not have had a better and more fitting representative" than Ramon, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said at the ceremony, which took place at the Lod Air Force base and was attended by political leaders, and top officials from the Israel Defense Forces and Israel’s Space Agency. "His image, projected from above, was the reflection of Israel at its best – Israel as we would have liked to see it – the Israel we love."
The items that Ramon brought into the shuttle instilled pride in Jews throughout the world, Sharon said. "The Torah scroll brought by a Jewish boy from a concentration camp, the [Jewish ritual] Kiddush cup, the Israeli flag and the Air Force badge touched and excited all Jews," he said.
President Moshe Katsav said that Ramon knew, even before his death "how to unite all parts of the Jewish people with the blink of an eyelid." "He was a representative and symbol of our people… I thank you, Ilan, in the name of the Israeli nation, for your mission on behalf of humanity, for the honor you brought to the State of Israel, for standing at the frontline of scientific research in space," Katsav added.
Volunteers Help Identify Remains of Columbia Astronauts
As the people of the U.S. and Israel mourned the loss of the seven Columbia space shuttle astronauts, Israel offered practical help as well, sending experts in the field of body part identification to Texas to help NASA and rescue workers recover and identify the remains of those killed in the explosion, ISRAEL21C reported.
Four members of the Israeli volunteer organization ZAKA (a Hebrew acronym which means ‘identification of disaster victims’) arrived in Houston shortly after the explosion and were briefed by American experts before beginning work in the recovery area around Nacogdoches, Texas. Yisrael Stefanski, a ZAKA volunteer, said he and the other volunteers had been at the site of many terror attacks: "Unfortunately, we have too much experience with this type of work. We will help in the searches for body parts and we may be able to find and recognize things that the others cannot."
The ZAKA volunteers were initially brought to the scene at the request of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chief Rabbi of NASA to aid in the identification of body parts of the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. Although Ramon’s partial remains were soon positively identified by DNA examination, the volunteers remained at the scene to help the rescue worker identify remains of all the astronauts.
ZAKA was founded five years ago after a bus bombing near Jerusalem and it is manned entirely by Orthodox men. ZAKA volunteers are often the first to arrive at a disaster scene, and they provide first aid and other help for survivors while assuring that proper respect is given to the dead and that all body parts are collected, identified and buried in accordance with the religion of the deceased. ZAKA volunteers have been called upon worldwide to identify victims of bombings and explosions. Both the World Trade Center tragedy of September 11, 2001 and the Paradise Hotel bombing in Mombassa, Kenya utilized the expertise and experience of ZAKA volunteers in identifying human remains. In 2001, the UN recognized ZAKA as Israeli volunteer organization of the year.
* The Israeli Mission to the United Nations announced that Israel ratified on Monday two anti-terror treaties, the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presented Israel’s ratification in a letter to the UN. "As a nation at the forefront of the struggle against vicious terror organizations, we believe that the international community as a whole must come together to combat terrorism, "the Israeli Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Arye Mekel, said.
* Eli Shaked was named today as Israel’s new ambassador to Egypt, THEJERUSALEM POST reported. Shaked replaces Gideon Ben-Ami, who is retiring, after serving in Egypt for two years. Shaked once worked at the Cairo embassy and also served as head of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul.
* An estimated $2.3 billion in revenue from tourism has been lost in the two years since the outbreak of the conflict with the Palestinians. $1 billion was lost in 2001 and $1.3 billion in 2002. The loss amounts to 2.3% of GDP. Senior economic officials in Jerusalem believe that even if the war in Iraqis brief and terrorism subsides, another $1.3 billion in tourism revenue will be lost in 2003. Revenue from tourism totaled $2.1 billion in 2002,compared with $2.4 billion in 2001, an 11% drop, and $3.4 billion in 2000, a fall of 38%.
* Tel Aviv-based H.A.T. International has won the rights to market and sell Samsung cellular products in Romania, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. According to H.A.T., the rights are worth some $20 million annually. This will be the first time that Samsung, the world’s second largest cellular phone manufacturer, will be selling its products in Romania. H.A.T. CEO Isaac Voldman said that under the terms of the agreement, the company will hold exclusive distribution rights for Samsung cellular products in Romania for one year with an option for a second year. If successful, it could hold the rights for up to five years.
* Herzliya-based Jacada reported a $444,000 profit for the fourth quarter, compared with a $2.6 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2001, GLOBES reported. In the preceding quarter, the company lost $1.3 million. Jacada, which provides solutions that extend the use of existing computer systems, said its revenue rose in the fourth quarter to $5.6 million, compared with revenue of $4.6 million in the prior quarter.
Captain Killed in Bethlehem’s Manger Square
** Sharon Tours Arrow Missiles Base
** Clerics Issue Fatwa Against Arab Leaders Aiding U.S.
** PA, Hamas Compete to Compensate Families of Suicide Bombers
** Other News in Brief
Captain Killed in Bethlehem’s Manger Square
Captain Shachar Shmul, 24, from Jerusalem, was killed on Tuesday night after a Palestinian terrorist shot him in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, HA’ARETZ reported. Captain Shmul was a company commander in the armored corps of the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF said soldiers were checking a suspicious vehicle when the gunman opened fire from a nearby alley and killed him. He was hit by one bullet and died on the spot although he was wearing body armor. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack. Shmul is the third IDF soldier killed in the West Bank in less than a week. Two 21-year-old paratroopers were killed in an ambush at their base in Nablus last Wednesday.
Hours after the shooting, IDF tanks entered Bethlehem for the first time in over six months, imposing a curfew and declaring the West Bank town a closed military area. Since November 22, 2003 (when a suicide bomber from Bethlehem killed 11 Israelis and wounded 54 in Jerusalem) the IDF has intercepted 15would-be suicide bombers in the city before they were able to set out for their attacks, and arrested another 240 terror suspects.
In other news, the Israel Security Agency arrested today a Palestinian from Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, who planned to carry out terrorist attacks inside Israel. His assignments included sneaking two suicide bombers into Israel, setting off a bomb on the helicopter launching pad at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva and attacking a tour bus in Mitzpe Ramon.
Overnight Tuesday, three Palestinians attempting to carry out an attack with knives and grenades were killed by the IDF close to the Gaza Strip community of Dugit.
Tours Arrow Missiles Base
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon toured the Ein Shemer army base in northern Israel today, where Arrow anti-missile batteries are deployed, THE JERUSALEMPOST reported. The Prime Minister assured Israeli citizens that the country was prepared for any fallout from a US-led war on Iraq. "The Defense Ministry has taken all the necessary measures to provide the greatest defense for Israel, which includes the measures we are looking at today -the Arrow," Sharon said, standing next to four Arrow batteries. He called on citizens to remain calm, stressing that the army is making thorough preparations in the event of a possible biological or chemical weapons attack. Sharon added he believed there was only a small chance that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would target Israel this time. In 1991, Iraq fired 39Scud missiles at Israeli towns and cities, causing great damage but few casualties.
Israel and the United States jointly developed the Arrow anti-missile system after the 1991 war, during which the Patriot anti-missile system had only limited success. Military sources said that if faced with a strike, Israel would use the Arrow as its first line of defense, and the Patriot as a backup system.
Meanwhile, according to GLOBES, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Boeing (NYSE: BA) have agreed on Tuesday to establish a US-based production infrastructure that will manufacture components of the IAI-developed Arrow anti-ballistic missile system. Under the agreement, Boeing will be responsible for production of 50 percent of the Arrow missile components in the United States. IAI, the prime contractor of the Arrow system, will be responsible for integration and final assembly of the Arrow missile in Israel.
Issue Fatwa Against Arab Leaders Aiding U.S.
A group of Muslim clerics affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad issued a fatwa on Monday (Islamic religious ruling) blasting any Arab ruler supporting an American war against Iraq, HA’ARETZ reported. According to the ruling, any Arab leader who condones an American strike on Iraq "betrays God and His prophet, violates Muslim law and will pay a heavy price." The fatwa, issued by the Association of Wise Men of Palestine, also urges Arab businesses to "boycott American products and withdraw their money from American banks."
"Muslims must prepare for a jihad [holy war] against the American, Zionist and British aggression toward Iraq," the fatwa concluded.
The clerics issued the threat despite the fact that most of the Arab assistance to the American war effort is coming from Qatar and Kuwait, which are two of Hamas’ principal financial backers.
The Association of Wise Men of Palestine is headed by Sheikh Hamad Bitawi, a former leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank and a one-time preacher at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. Bitawi is one of the 415Hamas members whom Israel expelled to Lebanon in 1994. The association’s fatwa is only one element of a broad campaign against the expected war with Iraq that is currently being waged in the West Bank and Gaza. This campaign enjoys enormous support among the Palestinian public, whose traditional opposition to what it perceives as American and British imperialism has been strengthened by Iraq’s strong financial support for the Intifadah -particularly its payments to the families of suicide bombers.
Hamas Compete to Compensate Families of Suicide Bombers
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are now in competition over which offers more compensation to the families of suicide bombers and those harmed during Israel Defense Forces operations, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Hamas offers a one-time payment of $10,000, as well as monthly payments to families of suicide bombers or those who die in clashes with the IDF. The PA offers a lump sum of more than $20, 000. Over the past two weeks, PA officials have visited families whose houses or business were demolished by the IDF to offer them financial assistance. Owners of dozens of metal workshops in the Gaza Strip, which have been destroyed on suspicion of manufacturing rockets and mortars, have also received money from Arafat.
* High-level talks aimed at implementing a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians were postponed, HA’ARETZ reported. Confirming that the meeting did not take place Tuesday as scheduled, the Spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Arnon Perlman, said it would occur in the coming days. Back to top Economic Briefs
* Start-up IXI Mobile announced that it has raised another $6 million in its third funding round, with investments from China Development Industrial Bank and the Intel Communications Fund, GLOBES reported. The new investments have increased the size of the round to $21 million, the company said. In October last year, the company announced that the third round of funding had reached$15 million, with investments from Draper Fisher Jurvets on ePlanet Ventures, Gemini Israel Funds, Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) and TLCom. IXI says the funds will be used to accelerate international product development and marketing strategies.
Recalls Ambassador to Belgium after Sharon Verdicts Minister of Foreign
Benjamin Netanyahu recalled Israel’s ambassador to Belgium, Yehudi Kinar on Wednesday after the Belgian Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron (commander of the Israel Defense Forces in Beirut in 1982) could be prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the Sabra and Chatila massacres in 1982 in Beirut, HA’ARETZ reported. The court ruled that Sharon could only be tried after he ceases to be prime minister, and no longer has diplomatic immunity. Netanyahu said the Belgian court had made "a scandalous decision, which legitimizes terror and harms those who fight it."
"This turns the tables – when those who fight terror turn into the accused and the terrorists are victorious. Belgium is helping to harm not only Israel, but also the entire free world, and Israel will respond with severity to this," Netanyahu added.
In addition to recalling the ambassador, Netanyahu urgently summoned Belgium’s ambassador to Israel for a meeting today at which Netanyahu will deliver an Israeli reaction to the court decision. It was not yet known how long Kinar would be kept at home. Government sources expressed concern regarding the possibility of future prosecutions against Israelis in Belgium, but they also noted that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was also in line for prosecution in Belgium, in the wake of complaints filed against him by Israeli terror victims.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Government has recently been fashioning a new legislation that would severely limit the ability of its legal system to prosecute suspected international war criminals with no connection to Belgium.
Terrorists Killed near Gaza Community
Three Palestinian terrorists were killed by Israel Defense Forces troops near the Gaza Strip community of Netzarim today while planting explosive devices, ISRAEL RADIO, KOL YISRAEL reported. One of the gunmen was killed after firing at the soldiers and the two others were shot dead during a chase. A fourth terrorist was arrested.
A dummy rocket, originally thought to be a Kassam rocket, was found today near the West Bank community of Migdal Oz. The rocket, which was ready for launching, was directed at the settlement of Efrat, and was intended to lure soldiers to the area, where a 10-kilogram explosive device was later found.
In the vicinity of Jenin, security forces arrested today 20 wanted Palestinians (most of them members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad) in a wide-scale counter-terror operation in the area.
Meanwhile, the IDF lifted the closure today in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, and Ramallah. The closure remained in place in Jenin, Bethlehem and Hebron.
In other news, the Israel Security Agency provided details on Wednesday on the capture of Ala’a Sheikh al-Eid, 23, of Rafah, who planned to enter the country from Egypt and carry out attacks in the south of Israel, the JERUSALEM POST reported. Eid also planned to place a bomb on the helicopter pad at Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital, detonate a bomb near a bus of tourists visiting Mitzpe Ramon, and attack IDF officers in the Bedouin town of Rahat. He was arrested in December, before any of the attacks could be carried out. Eid was a member of the Popular Resistance Committee, an umbrella organization for the terrorist organizations operating from the Gaza Strip. Eid told the ISA that shortly after completing military munitions and explosives training, he traveled to Egypt via the Rafah crossing and was to enter Israel where he would stay with relatives in the Negev area and prepare two homicide bombers for their missions. The ISA has noted that terrorists have increased their attempts to infiltrate Israel via Egypt in recent months because of their difficulty in penetrating the border fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. On January 12, 2003 two men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles infiltrated Israel from Egypt some 10 miles north of Nitzana, and shot at an IDF patrol, killing one soldier and wounding two others before being shot dead. On December 15, 2002, security forces arrested two Hamas gunmen infiltrators, also in the Nitzana area.
Quietly Prepares for Possible War
The Israel Defense Forces has been gradually raising its level of preparedness in anticipation of an impending American attack on Iraq, HA’ARETZ reported. At the beginning of next week, the IDF’s Hawk missile batteries will be put on full operational deployment and Patriot batteries will follow suit soon afterward. Both types of missiles are intended to help prevent "suicide planes" sent by Iraq from entering Israeli airspace and dispersing chemical or biological agents. The Patriots are also meant to assist Israel’s Arrow missile batteries in shooting down any Scud missiles. Dozens of reservists in the IDF anti-aircraft units received notification in recent days to be prepared for the possibility of an immediate call up for reserve duty. The soldiers alerted are those who will man the Patriot and Hawk missile batteries.
A senior army source said that the IDF was constantly working to improve its readiness for the war, but that only some of the steps it was taking were reported in the media. The goal, he explained, was to reach full preparedness without creating panic. Over the last few days, an average of40,000 people a day has been going to IDF distribution centers to refresh their gas mask kits. The IDF Home Front Command estimates that about 90percent of all Israelis now have fully functional kits. In areas in which an Iraqi attack is considered particularly likely, the rates are even higher -94 percent in Gush Dan and 95 percent in Haifa.
* Captain Shachar Shmul, 24, from Jerusalem, who was killed on Tuesday in Bethlehem, was laid to rest today in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery, the JERUSALEM POST reported. Shmul’s mother said of him that "he loved his soldiers and took great care of them. He would give up his Shabbat at home and stay with them if they had a problem." Just a month ago, Shmul signed on for six years at the IDF Military Academy. Shmul attended the ORT Ramot High School in Jerusalem, which today erected a memorial corner in the school with photos.
* Israel’s soccer team won its first home soil game in over a year scoring a2-0 victory against Armenia on Wednesday night in Ramat Gan, HA’ARETZ reported. The national team, which had been unable to host any official matches at home since October 2001, treated the 8,000 spectators at the National Stadium to a fast-paced game. At a post-match press conference, coach Avraham Grant said that the staging of the home game with Armenia sent an important message to the international soccer authorities, and applauded the Armenians for agreeing to travel to Israel. Grant said the very fact that the match was held and that it went off without incident should be a message to the world. "Today we showed the rest of the world that soccer can be played in Israel and that terror must not be allowed to prevail."
* Intel is launching its latest chip based on its Wireless Internet on a Chip technology, HA’ARETZ reported. The chip has been developed by Intel’s development facility in Petah Tikva, where 300 engineers are employed. Intel will be using the chip to lead it into the next generation of wireless Internet applications. Uri Barkai, head of Intel’s development center in Petah Tikvah, expects commercial production of the chip to begin in the third quarter of the year.
* Israel Aircraft
Industries (IAI) and Boeing plan to produce Arrow anti-ballistic missiles
in Huntsville, Alabama, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The plant is slated
to begin operation of the missiles for use in Israel in2004 or early 2005.
The Arrow program was launched by IAI to intercept and destroy Scud missiles,
similar to the ones Iraq fired during the Gulf War of1991. Under the agreement
signed between Boeing Missile Defense Systems and IAI’s MLM division at
Be’er Ya’acov, Boeing will produce half of the Arrow components, while
final assembly will be concluded in Israel by IAI. "Israel and the
U.S. have been friends and allies for many years. It is our privilege
to work with IAI on the Arrow program," said James Evatt, senior
vice president and general manager at Boeing Missile Defense Systems.
"This agreement is important because it marks the beginning of our
work together and our commitment to the Arrow project. It also opens the
way for future missile defense efforts between Boeing and IAI."
Under International Pressure Says He Will Appoint Prime Minister
** U.S., Israel to Develop Next Generation Jet Fighters
** North, Tel Aviv Ready for War
** Supreme Court Calls on IDF to Reconsider Demolitions
** Olmert’s Possible Resignation May Lead to First Ultra-Orthodox Mayor for Jerusalem
** Other news in brief
** Economic Briefs
Under International Pressure Says He Will Appoint Prime Minister Palestinian
Authority Chairman Yasser
Arafat – under the pressure of the Quartet (an international body comprised of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia working to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table) – said today that he decided to appoint a prime minister, HA’ARETZ reported.
The Quartet urged Arafat to provide them by Sunday with a timetable for naming a prime minister and hinted the post should be given to his current Finance Minister, Salam Fayyad. Fayyad is a respected technocrat who was brought into the Palestinian Cabinet last year with the expectation that he would work to root out the endemic corruption.
"[Arafat] has seen that the international situation has changed and he has to adapt to it," Christine Jure, an aide to EU Peace Envoy Miguel Moratinos, said. Arafat said he would convene the Palestinian Legislature and Central Council "to get their consent to take the necessary steps" to name a prime minister but did not indicate a specific date for the meetings. "The next step has to be to appoint, and for the council to approve, a person which is both empowered and which is credible with the Israeli partners and with the international community," UN Peace Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said. Asked if he was confident Arafat would follow through, Larsen said: "Only time will show."
The Quartet has been pressing Arafat to make democratic reforms in the PA as part of a peace "roadmap" devised to end more than two years of Israeli-Palestinian violence. According to Israeli officials, Arafat has resisted appointing a prime minister for fear that such a move would weaken his power base. U.S. President George W. Bush called in a Middle East policy speech last June for a new Palestinian leadership "not compromised by terror".
Israel to Develop Next Generation Jet Fighters
The United States and Israel signed a letter of intent outlining the terms of Israel’s participation in the development of the next-generation Joint Strike Fighter due to be completed by 2012, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Israel will pay $50 million over the next several years for the right to be part of the project and purchase the planes.
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense, Technology and Logistics Edward Aldridge Jr. signed the letter at the Pentagon on Thursday in the presence of Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon. The Director-General of the Ministry of Defense, Amos Yaron, signed the letter several days ago.
Ayalon thanked the U.S. officials who helped negotiate the deal in the last few months for their support and expressed appreciation that Israel will be involved in the project. Eight countries (Britain, Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Australia, Turkey, Canada and Norway) are already collaborating with the US on the JSF program. The U.S. and Israel worked out a special bilateral security cooperation deal according to which Israel will be a "security cooperation participant" in the JSF project. Though it will be barred from partner discussions during development, Israel will have full input via the U.S. In addition, the U.S. has pledged to help Israel modify the plane to employ some of its own equipment, especially air-to-air missiles. The advanced helmet, manufactured by the Israeli company Elbit, which enables pilots to use eye motion to direct missile fire, was selected for the program.
Tel Aviv Ready for War
Security measures in the North have been stepped up in case of attacks emanating from Lebanon in the event of a US-led assault to topple the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the JERUSALEM reported. The measures have been taken as a precaution amid conflicting assessments over the Hizbullah’s likely actions during the course of a second Gulf War. Security sources confirmed that Northern Command is in a state of readiness to deal with any eventuality and that steps have been taken to improve protection for residents of confrontation line communities, near the Lebanese border and further south.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv, which was hit by four Scuds during the Gulf War, has completed preparations for a similar barrage. "The municipality is fully prepared, in every possible way," having spent tens of millions of shekels in anticipation of the war, said city manager Shalom Elkayam. He stated that the city’s bomb shelters have been inspected and renovated where necessary. Absorption centers have been established across the city, Israel’s most densely populated metropolitan area. Tel Aviv and its neighbor, Ramat Gan, bore the brunt of the 39 Scuds that fell on Israel during the 1991 war.
Court Calls on IDF to Reconsider Demolitions
The Supreme Court called on the Israel Defense Forces Central Command GOC Moshe Kaplinsky to reconsider the order he issued several weeks ago, allowing the demolition of Palestinian-owned properties between Kiryat Arba and the Jewish enclave in Hebron, HA’ARETZ reported. The demolitions are designed to facilitate the widening of "Worshipers Way," used by Kiryat Arba residents to reach the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Jewish section of Hebron after deadly attacks by Palestinian terrorists in the area left 12 Israelis dead. The path is used by nearby residents on the Sabbath and holidays.
The justices arrived at the ruling after a three-hour discussion on the petition submitted by the Hebron municipality and Palestinian residents against the intention to build a promenade along the road. The justices instructed Kaplisnky to consider using a route running parallel to the intended road, or to demolish only part of the buildings along the route and place soldiers to guard the worshippers on their way to the tomb. The justices also told Kaplinsky that when he examines the different alternatives, he should bear in mind wider implications, such as the diplomatic harm to Israel resulting from home demolitions.
Possible Resignation May Lead to First Ultra-Orthodox Mayor for Jerusalem
In the likely event that Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert announces on Sunday that he is stepping down from his current position, United Torah Judaism’s Uri Lupolianski will become the first ultra-Orthodox Mayor of Jerusalem, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported.
Olmert is expected to make his farewell speech at the routine City Council meeting, one day before he is sworn in as a member of the 16th Knesset and automatically removed from his mayoral post. Once Olmert resigns, Lupolianski, will by law act as temporary mayor for 60 days, after which elections for mayor and the city council should be held.
Olmert’s decision to resign is dependent on the outcome of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s consultations to form a new Government. If the current Jerusalem Mayor does not obtain a senior minister post in the Cabinet, he might choose to keep his current position.
Minister of Interior Eli Yishai announced last week that he intends to postpone the elections in Jerusalem and Haifa until October 28. If Yishai’s initiative, which needs to be confirmed by a new legislation, is accepted, Lupolianski could end up serving as mayor for eight months. Some members of the Jerusalem Council expressed concern such a situation could upset the city’s delicate balance between secular and religious, and they are expected to request that internal elections be held to select a candidate acceptable to all parties.
* Twenty-four Golani Brigade soldiers were wounded, three of them seriously, when a rocket propelled grenade exploded during a training exercise on an Israel Defense Forces base in the Golan Heights on Thursday, the JERUSALEM POST reported. The cause the explosion remains unclear. An IDF Colonel and the Military Police will carry out a full inquiry into the incident.
* According to the Chief Rabbinate, there was a decrease of 4.1 percent in the number of couples who are getting divorced in 2002 compared to 2001, MA’ARIV reported. Director of the Rabbinate Courts Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan attributes the decrease to the economic situation in Israel in which couples cannot afford to live apart. In 2002, 9,101 couples got divorced while 29,800 people got married.
* Israeli flower growers exported $70 million worth of flowers for Valentine’s Day, GLOBES reported. The main destinations are the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Britain and the United States. Israel Flower Growers Association’s secretary, Haim Hadad, said that the rise in the world price of roses and gerberas toward Valentine’s Day improved the flower growers’ situation after a long fall.
* Two blockbuster
generics, new drug approvals and European sales of its multiple sclerosis
treatment are expected to generate20 percent to 30 percent earnings growth
for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. this year, GLOBES reported. This
year, analysts say the company may launch about a dozen new generic drugs
with the potential to add $250 million to $270 million to 2003 sales.
It will likely introduce copycats of Pfizer’s hypertension drug Quinapril,
Bayer’s antibiotic Cipro and Schering Plough’s Hepatitis-C drug Rebetol.