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Israeline — Tuesday, January 21, 2003 —


** Hizbullah Shells IDF Posts On Northern Border
** Israeli Man Killed by Terrorists at Outpost Near Hebron
** Manhunt On for Escaped Palestinian Prisoners
** IDF begins voting preparations
** Economic Briefs

Hizbullah shelled Israel Defense Force positions in the Har Dov area of the northern border Tuesday for the first time in over four months, HA’ARETZ reported. The IDF troops returned fire and Israeli fighter jets hit targets in the vicinity of Shuba and Shaaba, villages in southern Lebanon. Witnesses said the Syrian and Iranian-backed guerillas launched anti-tank rockets and artillery rounds at the outposts overlooking Shaaba Farms. There was no immediate word of casualties on either side. The border area has been largely quiet since August, when Hizbullah fired mortar rounds and missiles at Israeli outposts, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding two others. Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in May 2000, but remains locked in a territorial dispute with Hizbullah over the Farms that Lebanon continues to claim.

The assault comes on the same day as U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa met with Lebanese officials as part of a revitalized American effort to negotiate a prisoner swap between Israel and Lebanon. Issa met with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud in Beirut and urged Hizbullah to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to see the four Israelis held by the terrorist group. Hizbullah, which is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations, responded by issuing a statement saying it was ready to disclose information about the four Israeli captives in exchange for the release of an undetermined number of Lebanese and Arab prisoners held in Israel.


One Israeli was killed and three others were moderately injured by Palestinian gunmen on Friday night at an outpost near Hebron, HA’ARETZ reported. The two terrorists were killed in a gun battle with outpost residents and security forces. Hamas assumed responsibility for the attack. Netanel Ozeri, 33, was shot dead by the terrorists and his 4-year-old daughter was injured, as were two of his friends who exchanged fire with the terrorists. Ozeri lived with his wife and five children in the secluded outpost north of Hebron’s Givat Haharsina. At about 7:30 p.m. there was a knock on the door. Ozeri’s seven family members were at home, as well as two friends who had come to dinner. As soon as Ozeri, who was armed, opened the door, the terrorists opened fire, shooting him in the chest. They were armed with an M-16, a revolver, hand grenades, an ax and a knife. Ozeri’s friends shot back at the terrorists, killing one of them. The second, who was wounded and fled, was later killed by security forces.

This is the fourth fatal attack in the past two months in the Hebron area, in which a total of 22 Israelis have been killed.


Security forces are searching for two Palestinians prisoners, identified as Bilal Yassin and Muhana Shabanah, who escaped early this morning from the Ofer detention camp north of Jerusalem, HA’ARETZ reported. Wardens discovered the two men missing during morning role call. One of the escaped men is an Islamic Jihad member and the second is from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; both have been involved in carrying out shooting attacks on Israeli targets. An initial investigation showed that the two cut the fence surrounding the camp and fled in the direction of Ramallah. According to Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, a curfew has been placed on the nearby city and comprehensive searches of the camp have been carried out. The camp commander has begun a probe into how the prisoners managed to escape, which will focus on how the two obtained cutting implements and succeeded in getting through the fence unnoticed by guards.


The Israel Defense Forces began transfering ballot boxes to units and outposts on Sunday for the general elections next week, HA’ARETZ reported. According to Chief IDF elections officer, the IDF will use 1,200 ballot boxes in the upcoming elections. About two-thirds will be posted in bases, and the rest will be mobile. The army will use armored personnel carriers and in some cases even tanks to take the mobile boxes to battle units operating in the territories and on the northern border.

Meganzi said that the cost of holding elections in the army amounted to about NIS 4 million (approximately $1 million), and some 5,000 soldiers and officers would participate in the project, including election committees that would ensure the smooth running of the voting. Each committee will be made up of three soldiers, at least two of whom would always be on guard. On Sunday the first ballot boxes were taken from the central storing facility in Holon to IDF bases in the north and in the center of the country, as well as to the navy and air force. More boxes were taken to the south on Monday and today the last boxes will be taken to the Home Front. Voting will start next Sunday with soldiers in the frontline units and at the distant outposts. The voting will continue Monday, though most soldiers are expected to vote on Tuesday, the official election day.

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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke by satellite phone today to first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Ramon is aboard the Columbia space shuttle that was launched from Cape Canaveral last Thursday, in a mission scheduled to run through February 1. Accompanying Sharon in the conversation was Education Minister Limor Livnat. Ramon, in a dark shirt with an Israeli flag on the lapel, was visible on a screen set up at the Prime Minister’s Office during the conversation. Sharon wished Ramon good luck on his space mission and sent him "blessings from Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and forever." Asked what it felt like up there, Ramon replied, "I feel right at home."



Telecommunications billing company Amdocs is close to signing a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars with America’s fourth-largest cellular operator, Sprint PCS, HA’ARETZ reported. The deal, slated to be closed in the next few weeks, could reach more than half a billion dollars over seven years, with revenue recognition starting in the second half of this year. Sprint began evaluating Amdocs’ solution two months ago. This is not the first deal between the two companies. Amdocs signed a multi-year contract with Sprint in September 2000 to supply billing and order management systems. That deal hinged on the Ensemble system, which Amdocs developed for the U.S. carrier.

Israeli software security company Finjan Software has sold its products to a U.S. security agency, GLOBES reported. The agency will buy 400,000 user licenses for Finjan’s SurfinShield software. The first stage of the deal has already been completed, and Finjan has already installed 100,000 systems. The deal is estimated at several million dollars. SurfinGate and SurfinShield proactively defend an enterprise’s PCs from active content and malicious mobile code attacks.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Adina Kay and Dina Wosner at The Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Wednesday, January 22, 2003 —

Explosives-Laden Car is Seized Near Umm al Fahm
Terrorist Groups Agree to Egyptian Talks; Syrians Tried to Disrupt Process
Israel Hit by Heaviest Rain Storm of the Season
Israeli Crossbreeding Bears New Exotic Fruit in the Negev
Economic Briefs

A major bombing was averted on Tuesday when Israel Defense Force Border Patrolmen on the Green Line near Umm al Fahm spotted a suspicious car trying to make its way across the border, HA’ARETZ reported. Although the troops spotted the vehicle from a few dozen meters away, the four men inside the car managed to scramble away before the troops arrived, with two suspected of making their way back inside the Palestinian areas and another two suspected of hiding somewhere in the Umm al Fahm area. According to the police, the car was carrying as much as a half-ton of explosives, as well as cooking gas canisters connected to a detonator.

The troops called in reinforcements from both the police and army, who sent a helicopter to help in the search for the four missing men. Police scoured Umm al Fahm, while IDF troops worked the eastern side of the Green Line, but no arrests had been made as of Tuesday night. According to the police, they were on high alert about Palestinian intentions to strike at a major population center in the north, which is why security forces had been patroling the seam area intensively.


Two key Palestinian terrorist groups have decided to attend talks in Cairo on halting attacks against Israelis after initially saying they would stay away, HA’ARETZ reported. According to a senior Palestinian official, "Hamas and Islamic Jihad have informed the Egyptians tonight they have changed their position and will send their representatives to Cairo for the talks." Other Palestinian officials said the talks planned for Wednesday would be held on Thursday instead.

Palestinian sources in Beirut had said earlier that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), led by Damascus-based guerrilla Ahmed Jibril, had been excluded, prompting Hamas and Islamic Jihad to skip the talks. But a Palestinian official from another faction said Egypt had invited all 10 major factions and said Syrian rejection of the talks lay behind the groups’ decision. According to a Palestinian official in Cairo "Egypt canceled the meeting after Syria refused to allow Palestinian factions based in Damascus to go to Egypt for the dialogue." Another source commented that "The Egyptians want a dialogue with some of the parties, and are asking for a halt to operations inside [Israel] with no program and nothing in return. No Palestinian can accept these two points, and the dialogue is as good as over."


Storms accompanied by heavy rain swept the center of the country on Tuesday leaving large sections of the Dan region flooded, closing roads, and even disrupting air traffic, HA’ARETZ reported. The rain began falling on Monday night and by Tuesday afternoon 90 mm. had fallen in Tel Aviv alone. In north Tel Aviv, which was hit hardest, major arteries, including Namir Way, the Rokah junction of the Ayalon Freeway, and Jabotinsky Street leading to the Geha junction were closed, bringing traffic to a standstill for hours. In Tel Aviv, the fire department was on high alert and rescue boats were put on standby in the downtown area. More than 150 houses were flooded and two trees were reported uprooted. Firemen evacuated 300 people from flooded homes, businesses and cars.

In Holon and Bat Yam, three kindergartens had to be evacuated. "The firemen found children sitting on tables with the teachers holding on to them," one of the firemen reported. "The children were very scared and crying. We told them to form chains and evacuated them through the floodwaters."Also evacuated were a bank, a bakery, a supermarket and a branch of Kupat Holim. Members of the naval forces assisted in the evacuation. The residents who were evacuated from their homes were put up in community centers and homes for the aged.

Since the start of the rainy season, 384 mm. have fallen in Tel Aviv compressing 68 percent of the average annual rainfall. The forecasters say the rains will continue today and will spread to the rest of the country. Thunderstorms are also expected, before the rains begin to taper off Thursday afternoon.


A new exotic fruit called ‘Dragon’s Eggs’ has been developed at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, GLOBES reported. The team of researchers, who developed the fruit at the university’s Institute for Agriculture and Applied Biology, announced its launch last week. "Dragon’s Eggs" are the result of crossbreeding a Panamanian "mother" – the Red Pitaya fruit – and a Columbian "father" – the yellow pitaya fruit. The new fruit was developed by traditional crossbreeding and not through genetic engineering. The fruit has a red peel and sweet flesh in a deep purple shade and it contains black seeds that are soft and edible, similar to the seeds of a kiwi. The peel is covered with scales with relatively big thorns that are removable upon ripening. The consumer will receive the fruit free of thorns and ready to eat.

‘Dragon’s Eggs’ belongs to the cactus family, making its water consumption about one-fifth to one-tenth that of regular orchard trees. "This feature has supreme significance for Israeli agriculture that suffers from a grave shortage in irrigation water, " emphasized Professor Yosef Mizrahi, who led the team of researchers. The fruit is being grown in the university’s research fields in Sde Nitzan and Kibbutz Maabarot in the Negev, and has been planted by farmers in other areas including Rosh Hanikra and Kibbutz Eilon on the Lebanese border. Mizrachi has already sent sample plants to fruit farmers in Australia, and another batch is on its way to Hawaii. He is confident that there will be interest in marketing the Israeli-grown fruit in the United States and Europe, and commercial quantities should become available in the next two years.


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The Gap is opening its first outlet in Israel in February at the Sakal Outlet surplus mall in Haifa, HA’ARETZ reported. The outlet will offer surplus gear from the U.S., Old Navy and Banana Republic lines, and new collections. According to executive Solly Sakal, the clothing is made in the U.S. "About 20 percent of the merchandise will be new collections for men, women and children," he added. The company hopes to open up a full-fledged Gap outlet somewhere in the Gush Dan district before the end of 2003. The Gap, which opened its first store in 1969, currently has more than 4,300 outlets worldwide, but until now has not had one in Israel.

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Given Imaging has announced that another nine million Americans could receive reimbursement for its M2A "camera-in-pill" system, after three new payers agreed to cover the diagnostic device, GLOBES reported. These additional beneficiaries bring the total number of Americans who have reimbursable access to capsule endoscopy to 47 million. Yokneam-based Given Imaging named Blue Cross of California, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Medicare and HGSAdministrators, as the latest payers to establish coverage policies for the M2A capsule endoscope.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Dina Wosner and Jonathan Schienberg at the Consulate General of Israel in New York

Israeline — Thursday, January 23, 2003 —


Security Forces on Heightened Alert for Elections Day
Joint Israeli, Palestinian Agricultural Conference Held in Turkey
Israeli Invention Helps Back Pain
Israeli Scientists Research Microbe That Eliminates Radioactive Waste
Economic Briefs


Israeli security forces are on heightened alert due to fears that Palestinian terrorists will attempt to attack Israelis on the upcoming election day on January 28, MA’ARIV reported. Although security forces have not received any specific information about an attack, there has been an increase in the overall number of warnings. During the past week Israel Defense Forces and Border Police troops reinforced the seam line and on Election Day, additional soldiers, policemen and Israel Security Agency personnel are expected to be on alert.

Meanwhile, IDF troops arrested a Palestinian man disguised as a woman, who fired at them near the Jewish community of Dugit in the Gaza Strip today. According to IDF Radio, the terrorist was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and grenades.


The heads of several different Israeli farming organizations held a joint agricultural conference with their Palestinian counterparts this week in Antalya, Turkey, GLOBES reported. The goal of the conference was to discuss ways of promoting links between the two sides despite the political and security situation.

Israel Fruit Growers Association General Manager Ami Uliel headed the Israeli delegation and said that the conference agreed on a series of joint activities, which include professional training for growing crops, saving water and scientific research. The members also discussed Palestinian participation in professional exhibitions and commercial and business ties involving agriculture inputs and fresh produce. The Israelis agreed to help solve problems created by the security situation in marketing and exporting agricultural produce from the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, despite the widespread perception that the violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have put an end to Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, more produce was sent to Israel from the West Bank and Gaza in 2002 than in 1999, the year before the violence began.


A new surgery to re-position the spine, designed for people who suffer from chronic back pain is now possible because of a new Israeli invention, MA’ARIV reported. The device is a small platinum chip that is inserted through a small incision between the vertebrae. The chip, which was developed by a team at the Spinal Care Unit at the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, expands up to 20 millimeters (approximately 0.78 inches), like an umbrella.

The surgical procedure generally used to reposition the spine is much more complicated due to the large incision necessary for the surgeon to insert poles and screws. The procedure has been known to endanger tissue in the area and the patient faces a longer hospitalization period. "Because the instrument is minimal it can be inserted to the spine through a small incision in the size of 0.5 centimeters (approximately 0.2 inches)," said Reuven Gepstein, Head of the Spine Care Unit. "There are fewer risks."


Israeli scientists have made breakthrough findings that provide an understanding of the most radiation-resistant organism in the world, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported. The bacterium, whose inner workings could aid worldwide efforts to eliminate radioactive waste materials, can withstand 1.5 million rads – a thousand times more than any other life form on Earth and three thousand that of humans. This microbe has become a reliable agent at nuclear waste sites like Chernobyl, where it eats up nuclear waste and transforms it into more disposable product.

Using an assortment of optical and electron microscopy methods, Prof. Avi Minsky of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Organic Chemistry Department found that the microbe’s DNA is organized in a unique ring. Unlike other organisms, in which DNA fragments are lost due to radiation, this microbe does not lose genetic information because it keeps the severed DNA fragments tightly locked in the ring – by the hundreds, if necessary. The fragments, held close, eventually come back together in the correct, original order, reconstructing the DNA strands.

The findings are not expected to lead to the protection of humans from radiation. "Our DNA is structured in a fundamentally different manner," Minsky said. The results may, however, lead to a better understanding of DNA protection in sperm cells, where a ring-like DNA structure has also been observed.


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Jordanian Prince Raed Bin Zaid paid a surprise visit to the Israeli embassy in Amman and met with the Israeli Ambassador David Dadon on Monday, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. The visit was a rare occurrence for the Jordanian royal family. Prince Bin Zaid told Ambassador Dadon that the goal of his visit was to keep in touch and emphasized that during these hard times it is even more important to keep the dialogue between the two countries going.

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Israeli bioinformatics company Compugen has signed its first major royalty-bearing agreement with Diagnostic Products Corporation, HA’ARETZ reported. The two companies are pooling their resources to develop diagnostic technology for certain cancers, including prostate cancer. The agreement couples Compugen’s recent discoveries of a prostate specific antigen-linked molecule (PSA-LM) and an hK2-linked molecule (K-LM) with DPC’s ability to developing, manufacture and market diagnostic immunoassay-based products.

Industrial exports rose 5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002 compared to the previous quarter, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The end -of-year growth trimmed declines to 5 percent and brought the overall figure for 2002 industrial exports to $18.4 billion. Fourth-quarter industrial exports were buoyed by high-tech exports, which rose 14.5 percent over the previous quarter. That is in contrast to a 12.5 percent drop in high-tech exports in the two previous quarters of 2002.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Michal Rachlevsky and Marita Gringaus at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.

Israeline — Friday, January 24, 2003 —

Three Soldiers Killed Near Hebron
Palestinian Finance Minister Pledges Financial Accountability in Davos
Nazi-Hunter Presents Personal Effects of Hungarian Jews to Yad Vashem
Insurance Company Claims Basketball Star Oded Katash Hid Knee Defect
Economic Briefs


Three Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed Thursday night when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on them on the road connecting the outposts of Kiryat Arba and Beit Hagai, HA’ARETZ reported. The three killed were identified as Corporal Asaf Bitan, 19, from Afula; Corporal Ronald Berrer, 20, from Rehovoth, and Staff Sergeant Ya’akov Naim, 20, from Kfar Monash. The military wing of Hamas, Iz a Din al-Kassam, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group is also behind the killing of two soldiers on guard duty near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on December 12. Since November 15, 2002, when 12 IDF soldiers and security personnel were killed in a firefight with three Palestinian gunmen, a total of 21 Israelis have been killed in the Hebron area. In response to the attack, Israeli helicopters fired 11 missiles at Gaza City early today.

In other news, IDF soldiers tracked down and killed two of the four members of a Hamas terror cell on their way to carry out an attack in the Nablus area this morning. A third terrorist was wounded and captured, while a fourth is still at large. Troops spotted the four men early this morning as they were approaching the Jewish community of Shavei Shomron. "We found on the Palestinians a rifle, grenades and an explosive charge. It looks like they planned to use them on the settlers or the troops stationed there," an army spokesman said.

Earlier today, Palestinians fired two mortar shells at a Jewish community in the southern Gaza Strip. No one was injured in the attack.


Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Salam Fayyad disclosed today that the new Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) will report the full size of its assets and investments on February 22, HA’ARETZ reported. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Fayyad unveiled the efforts to be made to provide both the Palestinians and the international donor community a system of "full transparency and accountability" in the PA’s financial sector.

Fayyad acknowledged the criticism and allegations of corruption made abroad regarding Palestinian handling of international donor funds, but claimed that the PIF would assure a system of honesty. "The Fund and its strict operating regulations constitute a major milestone in the financial reform process," he said. "We have agreed to adhere to, and are already implementing, the highest levels of international accounting and transparency standards."

The fund was established on August 14, 2002 under a decree issued by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. As Minister of Finance, Fayyad is chairperson of the PIF. The fund was set up with the help of international financial consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers, with the accounting of the Palestinians’ assets undertaken by the ratings agency Standard and Poors. Fayyad declined to specify the size of the Palestinians’ assets, saying this would be fully reported on February 22 at the next board meeting of the PIF. The figures will also be made available on a new PIF website to be launched on that date.


Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld arrived in Israel this week to present officials from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority with a collection of personal effects that once belonged to Hungarian Jewish Holocaust victims, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The effects will be part of an exhibit in Yad Vashem’s new Holocaust history museum scheduled to open next year.

Klarsfeld said he hopes to track down family members of the victims who were killed near the city of Balf on the Hungarian border, and to secure a complete listing of Hungarian Jewish Holocaust victims. The personal effects, including wallets filled with family photographs, marriage certificates, and emotional letters, belonged to Hungarian Jews who were in a forced labor-fighting unit gunned down by Germans in March of 1945. The items are part of some 100 files that Klarsfeld uncovered during his attempt to compile a full listing of Hungarian Jews murdered during the Holocaust, similar to lists he has already published of French and Belgian Jewish victims. "We knew that when the Jews were forced to leave Hungary, a listing was made by other Jews of the names of the deportees," he explained. "Every small object I brought carries with it the story of a full life."

Klarsfeld recently met with the new Hungarian Interior Minister, who promised to lend his support to recovering the complete listing and hopes the process will be completed by next year, which is the sixtieth anniversary of the deportation of Hungarian Jewry. "As much as it is up to me, those killed in the Holocaust will not disappear," Klarsfeld said. "The ideal, of course, would be to identify the memory of all six million." Meanwhile, the Lithuanian prime minister says his government is drawing up a list of property formerly owned by Jews as a step towards restitution.


The Hachsharat Hayishuv insurance company, which is being asked to pay out NIS 7.1 million (approximately $1.775 million) to basketball star Oded Katash, claimed on Thursday that the player failed to divulge medical information concerning a knee problem that he has had since birth, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Katash announced his retirement in late 2002 following several failed attempts to regain full fitness over a long period in which he underwent several knee operations. The insurance company asked the Tel Aviv District Court for permission to counter the claim by Katash saying that when the policy was drawn up, Katash concealed the fact that he suffers from a congenital knee defect. The petition says that he failed to state that while in the army, he was awarded special status as a result of this health problem.

Katash sued Hachsharat Hayishuv for inability to gain employment two months ago stating that when he left Maccabi Tel Aviv to join Panathinaikos of Athens, he secured a policy worth $1.5 million in the event of death or paralysis, which would prevent him from continuing to play basketball. The suit says that following his injury in August 2000, he was unable to continue playing basketball. In its counter argument, Hachsharat Hayishuv states that Katash’s injury did not result from a particular event, but was due to the fact that he has the congenital defect. The company also says that in Katash’s claim for compensation, he has obscured the exact nature of when and how his injury occurred.



The Ministry of Industry and the Trade Foreign Trade Authority are considering the participation of Israeli companies in the joint EU-European Space Agency (ESA) Galileo Project, GLOBES reported. The Galileo Project – a global navigation satellite infrastructure (GNSS) system – aims to place 30 satellites in orbit by 2008 at an approximate cost of $3.5 billion. The participation of Israeli companies in the venture would allow them to compete for a share of the satellite services market, estimated at tens of billions of dollars in the next 10-15 years.

Telecom billing software company Amdocs (NYSE: DOX) beat expectations by announcing on Wednesday revenue of $339.4 million in its first quarter (ended December 31), GLOBES reported. The revenue figure still represents a 19.7 percent decrease compared to that of last year’s first quarter. Shares of Internet security software firm Check Point (Nasdaq: CHKP) rose 7 percent on Wednesday after the company announced better than expected fourth quarter results and showed strong guidance for the future.

Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Caryn Farber and Victor Chemtob at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.