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Israeline — Monday, March 31, 2003 —


** Homicide Bomber Wounds Scores in Netanya
** FM Shalom: Israel Will Return to the Negotiating Table in Weeks
** Explosives Lab Uncovered in Israeli Arab Town
** Search Resumes for Missing Warsaw Ghetto Archives
** Other News in Brief
** Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs


Homicide Bomber Wounds Scores in Netanya
Fifty-eight people were wounded in a homicide attack Sunday in which an Islamic Jihad bomber blew himself up near a restaurant in a crowded pedestrian mall in Netanya, HA’ARETZ reported. Of them, fifteen people continue to be hospitalized including Israel Defense Forces soldier Gil Cooperman, 21, who prevented the terrorist from entering the café. Cooperman was in serious but stable condition. Six others were in moderate condition, while the rest sustained light injuries. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack and called it a "gift to the Iraqi people."

The impact of the attack may have been lessened by two factors: the size of the bomb and the bomber’s apparent inability to get into the restaurant. Police estimate that the bomb weighed about six and a half pounds – smaller than many of those used in other suicide bombings – and was carried in a bag by the bomber. According to reports, no security guard had been posted outside the café. The attacker was identified as 19-year-old Rami Muhammad al-Jameel Ranam, of Dir el-Rasoun near the West Bank city of Tulkarem.

Most of the wounded were taken to the nearby Laniado Hospital while several others were brought to Hadera’s Hillel Yaffe Hospital. Police Inspector Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky said that although much of the police preparedness was due to the war in Iraq, the police were on full alert for potential terror attacks. Security sources said there had been some 50 general warnings of pending suicide bombings and other terror plots. Aharonishky stressed that it was impossible to hermetically seal the border and prevent a lone bomber getting through. "We can’t for a moment think that because there have been many days without attacks that the potential or the capabilities of the terrorists have ceased," he said.

The attack was the first suicide bombing since March 5, when 17 Israelis were killed in a bus blast in the northern port city of Haifa. Netanya has been a frequent target of terror attacks, in part because of its proximity to the West Bank. The last terror attack in Netanya took place in the city market on May 19 last year, in which three people were killed and 76 wounded. In the deadliest bombing of the past 30 months, a Hamas bomber attacked the Park Hotel in Netanya during Passover a year ago, killing 29 people participating in a holiday meal.

Islamic Jihad, in a statement issued by its leader in Damascus, claimed responsibility for the attack, and added that some of its members had reached Baghdad and were prepared to attack U.S. forces. An Islamic Jihad leaflet stated: "We emphasize the connection between the unity of goals for Palestine and Baghdad, to stand up to the American-Zionist war meant to harm the entire Arab nation and Islam."

Islamic Jihad has become the second Palestinian group to dispatch its members for suicide missions against American and British soldiers in Iraq. Fatah, the mainstream faction of the PLO, announced over the weekend that many of its members had already arrived in Iraq. One of the group’s commanders in Lebanon, Col. Munir Maqdah, a former officer in Yasser Arafat’s elite Force 17 presidential guard, said more Palestinians are expected to travel to Iraq shortly. Meanwhile, demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip marking Land Day turned into huge rallies in support of Saddam Hussein. Thousands marched in Ramallah, Hebron, and Nablus, chanting slogans against the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel and calling on Saddam to launch Scud missiles at Tel Aviv.


FM Shalom: Israel Will Return to the Negotiating Table in Weeks
Israel will resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians in two to three weeks, once the newly appointed Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) forms a government, Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan during a Friday meeting, the JERUSALEM POST reported. "I told him that we are looking forward to seeing if there is a possibility to resume the negotiations with the Palestinians after the nomination of Abu Mazen and we will wait and see if he will form his new cabinet after two or three weeks from today," Shalom said. "The Americans said more than once that they would publish the road map only after Abu Mazen appoints the cabinet," he added.

Shalom, who stopped by the UN Friday morning during his first visit to the United States as Minister of Foreign Affairs, also asked Annan to return 21 items being stored in a UNIFIL warehouse in southern Lebanon that belong to three IDF soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah across the UN-delineated border in October, 2000. He said that Annan agreed to facilitate the return of the items and meet the families of the MIAs in the near future. In addition, Shalom, while emphasizing that Israel was not involved in the Iraq war, pledged to provide humanitarian assistance, including medical equipment and relief supplies, to Iraqi civilians, should Israel be called upon to do so by the international community. "We are not part of this war and we want to stay out of it," Shalom said. "But, if there are humanitarian steps that the United Nations will take, we will be able to be a part of it."


Explosives Lab Uncovered in Israeli Arab Town
Three Israeli Arab residents of the town of Jaljulya were arrested after the Israel Security Agency uncovered an explosives lab in the northern town, HA’ARETZ reported. This is the first case in which an explosives lab has been uncovered in Israel. The lab was run by the Islamic Jihad and the three men are said to belong to the terrorist group. The three men are suspected of planning to carry out numerous terror attacks, including the detonation of an explosive-laden car adjacent to the Tzrifin military base near Rishon Letzion. The three also allegedly planned to assist in infiltrating a homicide bomber into Israel. Operations at the lab were headed by Muhammad Masri, the son of a woman from Qalqilya, who was married to an Israeli Arab. Masri’s Israeli identity card facilitated his passage between Israel and the West Bank.

Meanwhile, nine consecutive life sentences and a further 30 years imprisonment were handed down today to cousins Ibrahim and Yassin Bakri of Kafr Bana in the Galilee for assisting and being accomplices in the homicide bomb attack at the Meron junction on August 4 in which nine people were killed and 48 wounded. In other news, Israel Defense Forces troops killed two Palestinians who infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Sunday evening, Israel Radio, KOL ISRAEL, reported. The troops, aided by an IDF helicopter, killed the gunmen after surrounding them in an avocado orchard near Kibbutz Erez. On Sunday afternoon, a bomb was detonated after it was discovered under an Israeli vehicle in the Erez industrial area. Military officials noted that the Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip continues to operate unhindered by the Palestinian Authority. Hamas bomb maker and number one fugitive Mohammed Deif returned to "active duty" recently.


Search Resumes for Missing Warsaw Ghetto Archives
A young Israeli, Uri Mintzker, is leading the initiative to find the third part of the Warsaw Ghetto archives. The search began in the garden of the Chinese Embassy on Swietojerstka Street in Warsaw, Poland, HA’ARETZ reported. The two other sections of this archive were found in 1946 and 1950, hidden in milk jugs and metal boxes. The missing third section was buried on the night of April 18, 1943, a day before the outbreak of the ghetto revolt. It contains documents collected during the last three months of the ghetto, including information on the underground organizations active there. Mintzker and his partner, geologist Ya’akov Karch (who lived in Warsaw during the Holocaust), interviewed Marek Edelman, one of the commanders in the ghetto revolt, who still lives in Poland. According to Edelman’s description, Mitzker and Karch calculated that the archives were located in an area now owned by the Chinese Embassy. Fortunately, the location is in the embassy’s garden, rather than under the building itself.

The Jewish Historical Institute in Poland, the official institution that holds the material from the other two sections of the archives, took this renewed search project under its wing.

The Warsaw Ghetto archives, also known as the Ringelblum archives, was a project initiated and managed by one man: the historian Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, who was quick to recognize (in October 1939) the serious threat facing the community and began to collect documentation for posterity. He gathered all of the information he could find on Jewish life in Poland, as well as documents specific to the Warsaw Ghetto. This included newspapers, diaries, and other documents. Ringelblum survived the ghetto revolt and took refuge outside the ghetto with his wife and son, who were killed by the Nazis in 1944. The two existent parts of the archives are considered the most important source of information on the history of Polish Jewry during World War II and the Holocaust.


Other News in Brief

* Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu and Histadrut labor federation chairman Amir Peretz met today but failed nonetheless to overcome their differences over the wage cuts in the public sector proposed in the Government’s economic austerity plan, HA’ARETZ reported. The Histadrut said its threat to strike next week was still in effect. Meanwhile, protesting against the new economic plan, 100,000 employees of 265 local authorities began striking for an indefinite period today. These workers joined 50,000 employees of government ministries who went on strike Sunday, refusing to provide services, receive the public or answer phone calls.

* In a unanimous decision rendered by the Jerusalem magistrates’ court today, former Israel Security Agency agent Avishai Raviv was acquitted on charges of failing to notify authorities of Yigal Amir’s intentions to assassinate the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the JERUSALEM POST reported. * A million dollars was raised by the Union of Jewish Organizations in North America and transferred with the help of the Jewish Agency to a joint program between Israeli hospitals and the Israeli Defense Forces for the development of a new "gas mask" for premature babies, MA’ARIV reported. The new "gas mask" is fitted around the baby’s incubator and is activated in seconds by zipping it closed and activating the attached air filters. The new "gas mask" provides complete protection to all premature infants across Israel.


Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs

* The number of job seekers has fallen by 6.7 percent in the past 12 months, reaching 194,000 in February 2003, GLOBES reported. The number of job seekers has declined by 11,600, seasonally adjusted. However, the number of job seekers rose by 2.6 percent in February, after falling by 4.1 percent in January, according to a Bank of Israel analysis of National Insurance Institute and Israel National Employment Service data.

*Israel’s TTI Team Telecom International, which provides support systems for telecom operators, today said it signed a global strategic partnership agreement with electronics giant Samsung Electronics, GLOBES reported. Under the agreement, Samsung will offer TTI Telecom’s Netrac Wireless solution as part of its product offerings for 2G, 2.5 and 3G CDMA networks, TTI said. Additionally, the two companies will share technical information and update each other on new product and technology introductions, ensuring continued product interoperability.

Israeline — Tuesday, April 1, 2003 —


** Shalom: Bush Believes No Connection Between War on Iraq and Peace Process
** Mofaz Concerned About Syria Sending Volunteers To Fight Against U.S.
** Troops Strikes Throughout Israel to Intensify
** Palestinians Name City Square in Honor of Iraqi Suicide Bomber
** Terrorists Confess to Using UNWRA to Conceal their Activities
** Other News in Brief


Shalom: Bush Believes No Connection Between War on Iraq and Peace Process In an unscheduled appearance, U.S. President George W. Bush joined the meeting between Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom and U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on Monday in Washington to discuss the "road map" for Middle East peace and the recent positions of some EU nations linking the war in Iraq to the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported. Bush and Shalom also discussed Israel’s requests for financial aid and issues relating to threats from Iran.

"The president, like Israel, believes that there is no connection between the war in Iraq and resumption of the peace process, in contrast with the European Union position, but the President still believes that the peace process should be furthered," Shalom said.

Shalom added that Israel accepted Bush’s vision of the Middle East as outlined in his June 24 speech, and that if the process moved in the direction of ‘a cessation of terrorism,’ Israel would resume negotiations. "There will not be two parallel tracks, one a war on terror during the day and the other, negotiations by night," Shalom said.

In regard to the recent appointment Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, Shalom said that "this is a step in the right direction, however, Israel will give him two months to crack down on terrorism. "I think that if Abu Mazen will not take the right measures against terror organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad when he comes to office in his first or second month, he won’t be able to do it after it," Shalom said.


Mofaz Concerned About Syria Sending Volunteers To Fight Against U.S. Troops
Despite American warnings, Syria is sending thousands of volunteers into northern Iraq to help in the war effort against the United States, becoming the first state bordering with Iraq to permit the official passage of volunteers, HA’ARETZ reported. At first, Palestinians and Lebanese were dominant among the volunteers, but as their numbers increased, the number of Syrians grew. The stream of volunteers is now estimated at thousands. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz said in an interview two days ago that some 4,000 volunteers had arrived in Iraq from various Arab states.

Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz announced today at the Israel Defense Forces induction center in Tel Aviv that the United States and Israel viewed Syria’s actions as "very grave" and that Israel was also very concern with Syria President Bashar Assad’s recent comments suggesting that peace with Israel would be impossible. "We must follow both his remarks and his actions in a very, very thorough manner," Mofaz said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday accused Syria of transferring weapons to Iraq and warned Syria and Iran not to cooperate with terrorism and with Saddam Hussein’s regime. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the AIPAC convention on Sunday that Syria would have to make a critical choice: "Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences."

Meanwhile, the U.S. is continuing to pressure Iran on two levels. It is demanding that Iran stop letting the "Bader brigades" into Iraq and halt its nuclear project. "It is now time for the entire international community to step up and insist that Iran end its support for terrorists, including groups violently opposed to Israel and to the Middle East peace process," Powell said.


Strikes Throughout Israel to Intensify
The strike movement throughout Israel is likely to intensify as Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu and Histadrut Labor Union Chairman MK Amir Peretz failed to reach an agreement on Monday afternoon over the public sector wage cut, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. The public sector wage cut is a key measure of the Government’s economic recovery plan. Following an unsuccessful meeting, the Histadrut announced it would broaden its strike operation to include employees from government companies, statutory authorities, such as the Postal Service, and large private corporations. The plan to intensify strikes should affect most sectors of the economy, including air and rail travel, medical treatment and some telephone services. Treasury officials are interested in avoiding a lengthened general strike that would cripple the economy before and during the Passover holiday.

Some 50,000 government workers, who have been striking since Sunday, and 100,000 local authority employees, who began their strike on Monday, will continue their actions today. Despite the sanctions, garbage will be collected in major cities. The Clerks Union decided that in light of security concerns, it would allow garbage in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa to be cleared. Some local authorities in central Israel hired private sanitation companies to clear the garbage during the strike.

The strike may also affect the education system. Over 1,000 kindergartens were closed on Monday and the opening hours of many of them were disrupted today, due to the strike of kindergarten assistants employed by the local authorities. In addition, the teachers’ unions said that they would discuss their demands with representatives of the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday, and then decide whether the strike action would also spread to the schools.


Palestinians Name City Square in Honor of Iraqi Suicide Bomber
Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp have named the main square in their camp after the Iraqi army officer who carried out the first suicide attack against US forces in Iraq, the JERUSALEM POST reported. "We want to honor the brave Iraqi officer who carried out the first suicide attack against the American and British occupiers," a senior Palestinian official in Jenin said. "We hope there will be more suicide operations in the coming days."

The decision to honor the Iraqi suicide bomber comes amid a wave of unprecedented anti-American and anti-British demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Jenin refugee camp has been known as a hotbed for Palestinian terrorists groups responsible for numerous homicide attacks in Israel. Camp residents have proudly described the camp, home to some 12,000 refugees, as the capital of homicide bombers. Some Palestinian journalists have indicated that the protests, where Palestinians shout slogans against the United States and Britain and burn flags of the two countries, were beginning to embarrass the Palestinian Authority. The PA has warned Palestinian journalists against "excessive" coverage of the demonstrations.


Terrorists Confess to Using UNWRA to Conceal their Activities
A document drawn up by defense establishment officials charges that terrorist organizations in the Palestinian-administered areas, Lebanon and Syria transport terrorists and arms in UNWRA vehicles and take advantage of UN staffers to mask their activities, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Terrorists in Israeli captivity have admitted that they systematically used UNWRA facilities, equipment and vehicles to operate without being searched by Israeli security personnel.

The report takes the case of UNWRA employee Nahed Rashid Ahmed Attalah, 38, a resident of Jabaliyah in the Gaza Strip, who was arrested last August by security forces as he returned from Egypt. A director of food supplies for UNWRA, he was issued a UN vehicle and pass that let him travel unrestricted through the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel. In the report Attalah states that he used his UN credentials to transport terrorists and weapons. He transported Fatah terrorists in his car – which was never subjected to IDF checkpoint inspections – and used his pass to travel to Egypt, Lebanon and Syria where he contacted Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine officials and received both money and arms.


Other News in Brief

* Egyptian soldiers arrested two Yeshiva students from Jerusalem, who accidentally crossed the Egyptian border on Monday while on a tour near Eilat, MA’ARIV reported. Another Israeli managed to cross back into Israel and alert the Israel Defense Forces. The three were touring in the Gishron Stream area, southwest of Eilat, an area that marks the border between Israel and Egypt and has no Egyptian border post. They failed to notice that they had crossed over into Egypt, and while they kept on walking they encountered an Egyptian soldier. A search was conducted by IDF soldiers and was stopped after they were told by the Egyptian liaison office that two Israelis that were arrested were unharmed and would be released immediately after questioning. The two were released at 11 PM and said that they were "fairly treated."

* Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) met Sunday night with the leaders of the terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, HA’ARETZ reported. The meeting came on the same day that Islamic Jihad took responsibility for a homicide bombing that injured 58 Israelis. Economic & Hi-Tech Briefs * Starbucks is closing its Israeli stores following obstacles in penetrating the Israeli market, GLOBES reported. Starbucks has six coffee houses in Tel Aviv that will cease operations on April 4, 2003; all of Starbucks’ assets in Israel will be transferred to the Shalom Coffee Company, the partner company of Starbucks in its Israel venture.

* The IVC Research Center established that Israeli venture capital firms returned more money than they raised in 2002, THE MARKER reported. The difference amounted to $128 million in negative accrual. In 2000 and 2001, Israel’s venture capital firms secured $4.8 billion in capital; in 2002 that sum plunged to $68 million.

Israeline — Wednesday, April 2, 2003 —


** Gilad: Israel Has No Part in the War With Iraq
** Belgium to Rescind International War Crimes Law
** Tight security for Israel-France Soccer Match in Sicily
** Hellenistic City Discovered in Ashkelon
** Other News in Brief
** Economic Briefs


Gilad: Israel Has No Part in the War With Iraq
Major-General Amos Gilad said today that there were no Israeli forces in Iraq, and that Israel was standing by a pledge to the United States to stay out of the war, HA’ARETZ reported. "There are no Israelis. The United States does not want Israelis in this war, and Israel has declared that it is not part of the war, and had acted accordingly," Gilad said. Recent media reports in Israel and abroad have suggested that Israeli officers were aiding the war effort in a number of ways, including providing intelligence data, and acting as training advisers on urban fighting, countering suicide attacks, and dealing with aid distribution and other issues relating to the civilian population.

According to Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, Gilad said that in order to make a threat to Israel manifest, they [the Iraqis] must use Western Iraq, the only part of Iraq from which such missiles can reach Israel: "Western Iraq is an enormous area. The United States has promised to remove this threat, and therefore American forces and others are operating there to the best of their abilities."

Gilad, a former senior Military Intelligence officer who now holds the posts of Israeli policy chief for the territories and senior army spokesman on civil defense measures, also addressed the current situation vis a vis the Palestinians and said that "the relative calm existing in Israel is largely a result of the operations Israel Defense Forces and the security services. "There has been no reduction in terror as a result of the Palestinian Authority." Gilad said, adding that the naming of Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] as PA prime minister-elect had not had any affect on the security situation in the West Bank and Gaza.


Belgium to Rescind International War Crimes Law
Dr. Alain Destexhe’s – a Belgium senator who was instrumental in passing the unique Belgian law which seeks to prosecute war crimes and genocide perpetrators from around the globe – is now trying to curtail that same law, HA’ARETZ reported. Several countries including the United States and Israel criticized the law after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was indicted for war crimes in a Belgian court. Since then, the law has turned into a serious diplomatic issue for Belgium. "Nobody imagined at the time it could become such a problem," Destexhe said in an interview. "It made sense at the time."

Now, Destexhe and the Belgian government hope elements of the law that have targeted leading U.S. and Israeli politicians will be voted out by the weekend. The Belgian Senate is to vote on the amendments on Thursday after the House of Representatives approved them today. The changes should bring an end to lawsuits against U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is visiting Brussels on Thursday, and end the Sharon case as well. "Using the law to target democratic countries was not the intent." As chief of the international relief agency Doctor Without Borders dealing with the victims of atrocities, Destexhe was among the first to applaud Belgium’s 1993 law to act against war crimes wherever they occurred. "My personal feeling was that it was useless to provide relief without justice being handed down," he said.

The legislation was supposed to be a small nation’s contribution to global justice.

Instead it was "the beginning of all the problems," Destexhe said. "The law started to be abused and perverted by those who used the law as a political tool rather than as a judicial instrument."


Tight security for Israel-France Soccer Match in Sicily
Israel’s National Soccer team will play tonight in Palermo, Italy, against defending European champion France under tight security, IDF RADIO reported. The match is part of the Euro 2004 series. The Israeli team is playing its "home" game in Italy due to the UEFA ruling according to which games could not take place in Israel due to security concerns in the Middle East. As part of the security measures taken by the local organizer, about 1,000 local police officers, together with Israeli security officials, were involved in the operation. In addition, bomb-sniffing dogs and metal detectors will be on hand at the stadium. The hotel that is hosing the Israeli team is also under tight security.

The team’s spokesman Shaul Aizenberg said that the squad’s main focus is on the sporting aspect. "The players are thinking only about the game," he said. Another team official, Sagit Levy, explained that the situation in Italy was not very different from the one at home. "We have a really tough situation in Israel and there is a lot of security, but we try not to think about it."


Hellenistic City Discovered in Ashkelon
The remains of a Hellenistic city have been unearthed in Ashkelon after construction bulldozers rammed into the site while trying to build a road over what appeared to be a hill, HA’ARETZ reported. The Antiquities Authority was called in to examine the site and determined that the site was preserved by a a sandstorm that may have covered it in ancient times around the third Century BCE, The dig has thus far revealed a number of two- and three-room mud buildings built around a common yard that contained cooking facilities, and a three-meter wide road connecting some of the buildings.


Other News in Brief

* According to data given to Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz by the Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday, the motivation level of new recruits reached record heights in 2002, MA’ARIV reported. The data also shows that the number of recruits that expressed satisfaction from their placement in combat units has increased significantly compared to 2001.

* A new village in Be’er Sheva, which will be inhabited by students from Ben Gurion University and young entrepreneurs, will be opened this year in the Ramet Hanegev Regional Council, about 80 miles south to Be’er Sheva, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. The residents will contribute to Be’er Sheva’s community and in return get reimbursed for their tuition.


Economic Briefs

* The Government Companies Authority submitted a draft prospectus for El Al to the Securities Authority prior to floating the company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, HA’ARETZ reported. The Authority initially plans to float 49 percent of the airline, on May 21, 2003. "The move is an important stepping stone on the way to privatizing El Al," GCA Director-General Eyal Gabai said. The draft prospectus comes 13 years after the government first decided to privatize the national carrier.

* Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Finance Committe that he is not prepared to guarantee that the budget deficit will stay within the government’s target of 3 to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product, HA’ARETZ reported. "I cannot say with certainty that the budget deficit will fall around 3 to 3.5 percent of GDP, or that GDP will grow by 1 percent," he said referring to the Treasury’s growth assumption in calculating the 2003 budget. "I cannot say what growth will be or how much state revenues from taxes will amount to. Nevertheless, we are following the right steps, and going in the right direction."


Israeline — Thursday, April 3, 2003 —


** Operations in Rafah and Tulkarm Reveal Immense Terrorist Infrastructure
** No Progress Yet on Emergency Economic Plan
** IAF Unveils its Hi-Tech Air Traffic Control Systems
** El Al Preparing For SARS Threat On Asia Flights
** Italian Police Requested France-Israel Soccer Game Without Audience
** Other News in Brief Shalom
Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs


Operations in Rafah and Tulkarm Reveal Immense Terrorist Infrastructure
The Israel Defense Forces conducted an operation in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip today, in an attempt to further root out terrorism by demolishing homes that were being used to conceal tunnels used to smuggle arms from Egypt, HA’ARETZ reported. During the operation, six Palestinians were killed.

Meanwhile, according to THE JERUSALEM POST, 1,000 Palestinians from the ages of 14 to 45 were rounded up in the Tulkarm refugee camp as part of a fresh crackdown on suspected terrorists in the camp. According to IDF sources, eleven people were identified as wanted terrorists and were formally arrested.

Security officials said three of the fugitives arrested were involved in terrorist attacks; one was described as having "blood on his hands" and was involved in an attack in which a soldier was killed last year. Of the other two, both Islamic Jihad affiliates, one was involved in last Sunday’s homicide bombing in Netanya, while the other was involved in an homicide bombing in Netanya last year. One of those arrested was a wanted Tanzim man who tried to escape the camp by dressing as a woman. Sources stated that those not on the wanted list would be quickly freed.

The soldiers also conducted house-to-house searches for wanted terrorists and weapons. The roundup and searches are part of the first major operation inside the camp since last year. Several more fugitives were arrested elsewhere in the West Bank, including senior Hamas commanders Munir Me’eri and Aiman Jumjoom in Hebron. Me’eri, a Jordanian citizen, was wanted for recruiting terrorists and ordering attacks including the infiltration into Adora in the Hebron Hills last April in which four Israelis were killed, including a four-year-old girl. Me’eri also allegedly dispatched terrorists to shootings in Kiryat Arba. According to officials, security forces have arrested 327 fugitives in Hebron in the past year, 146 of whom were affiliated with Hamas. In March alone, security forces arrested 13 fugitives from Hebron who were planning to perpetrate homicide bombings.

Two bomb factories were also uncovered by security forces in the El-Fawar refugee camp and in Beit Awla.


No Progress Yet on Emergency Economic Plan
No progress was made in a meeting today between Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu and Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Amir Peretz over the Government’s emergency economic plan, HA’ARETZ reported. No date was set for the two men to meet again. If the talks break down completely, the sanctions imposed by the civil service and local authorities will intensify to a full-blown strike at the beginning of next week to encompass an estimated 500,000 workers. Municipal workers were continuing their strike today.

According to Minister Meir Sheetrit, the Finance Ministry is willing to reduce the number of state employees to be dismissed if the Histadrut agrees to higher wage cuts among the employees who will remain. After consulting top officials in his ministry, Netanyahu has decided to postpone submitting the economic plan to the Knesset for its first reading by one week; the plan, which was to be submitted this coming Monday, will instead be submitted on April 13. The delay is meant to give more time for negotiations with the Histadrut. Following the delay, the second and third readings of the legislation surrounding the economic plan are now scheduled to take place right after Passover. The treasury still insists that the legislation will be completed by the end of April.


IAF Unveils its Hi-Tech Air Traffic Control Systems
The Israel Air Force opened its air traffic control base at Mount Miron in the north to visiting journalists for the first time on Wednesday, HA’ARETZ reported. Among the sophisticated radar controls and other equipment, IAF officers operate consoles tracking all aircraft flying in the region, including enemy warplanes, and any possible launching of ballistic missiles. The system is capable of tracking aircraft several hundred miles from Israel and providing date on the type of aircraft, its direction, speed and height.

At short notice, the system is able to alert air defense crews including fighter aircrafts -whether in the air or at their bases – as well as antiaircraft and antimissile missile batteries, including the Patriot and Arrow. Similarly, the center can initiate a general alarm for the population, sending them to designated shelters. In recent weeks, in view of the war in Iraq, the alert levels have been raised even higher, and the crews manning the station run different threat scenarios as part of their preparedness efforts.


El Al Preparing For SARS Threat On Asia Flights
Israeli air carrier El Al announced today that it would undertake a series of precautions on its flights to Asia to prepare for the threat of the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, after nearly 2,300 people worldwide have been infected by the virus, which originated in China in November, HA’ARETZ reported. El Al’s deputy CEO said that the flight staff will wear surgical masks during the flights, and that passengers would also be able to get such masks on the plane.

On Wednesday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to recall the families of four Israeli diplomats at the consulate in Hong Kong and issued special instructions to all Israeli diplomats stationed around world due the SARS outbreak. For the time being, the ministry did not recall the families of diplomats serving in China and Vietnam, but will continue to reassess the situation. The World Health Organization on Wednesday issued a travel warning, following a jump in the global death toll, with numerous countries reporting more victims of SARS, which has been spread around the globe by travelers. It was the first warning the United Nations’ body has ever issued for health reasons. Earlier travel warnings concerned war or other conflicts.


Italian Police Requested France-Israel Soccer Game Without Audience
A special terrorism combat unit of the Italian police has demanded that Wednesday’s soccer match between Israel and France in Palermo be played without spectators, MA’ARIV reported. The police claimed that there was a chance that the spectators arriving to the game would try to hurt Israelis. UEFA officials were informed of the Italian police’s decision and rejected it, explaining that it would not be right to make Israel host its "home" game outside of Israel and then leave the audience out. They also added that the Israeli soccer delegation had already incurred great expenses during their stay in Palermo. After lengthy discussions on the matter, the police agreed to allow the public within the stadium. About 1,800 Italians attended the match, in addition to 300 fans from Israel and about 400 supporters from France.

France, the defending European champion won the match 2-1, with goals by David Trezeguet and Zinedine Zidane. Omri Afek scored Israel’s goal at the second minute. France’s coach Jacques Santini praised the game of the Israeli team. "It was difficult," he said. "The Israeli team which stood opposite us was great and dangerous and I think it should have been a tie, which would have reflected the real situation on the field. Israel’s collective game was excellent and we were surprised by the team’s ability, especially moving the ball around the field."


Other News in Brief

* IKEA in Israel will hold a Passover sale, for the first time in its history, MA’ARIV reported. The national management of IKEA approved the decision to hold a special sale for Passover after recognizing the need of Israelis to shop for Passover gifts. As part of the sale, tens of products will be sold at NIS19 (approximately $4). Gift certificates and local wines will also be available.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Data communications and digital multimedia company D-Link announced today it would open an office in Israel, GLOBES reported. The Taiwan-based company develops communications systems for the household and large enterprise markets, including optical communications equipment, broadband products, and data storage servers. D-Link recently decided to enter the communications and digital multimedia markets. The company is ranked as one of the world’s three largest suppliers of equipment for household and enterprise communications networks. D-Link, which had a $520 million sales turnover in 2001, has 1,600 employees in seven plants in the US, India, China, and Taiwan.

* The Ministry of Finance’s Tax and VAT Authority communicated on Wednesday that imports of durable goods rose by 6 percent in March, reaching a total of $93.2 million, compared to $87.9 million in February, THE JERUSALEM POST reported.


Israeline — Friday, April 4, 2003 —


** IDF Ends Tulkarem Operation after Key Arrests
** US to EU: MidEast Road Map Will be Implemented but It Cannot Be Imposed
** Histadrut Plans General Strike on Wednesday
** IDF Female Reserve Medic Unit Ready For Second Deployment
** BGU Developer of Natural Pesticides to get Prestigious Tyler Prize
** Israel’s Chief Rabbis Retire
** Other News in Brief
** Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs



IDF Ends Tulkarem Operation after Key Arrests
Following the arrest of Tanzim and Islamic Jihad terrorist leaders, the Israeli Defense Forces began moving out of Tulkarem this morning and allowed residents to return to their homes, HA’ARETZ reported. Anwar Alyan, an Islamic Jihad commander, was arrested during the operation as he and four other Palestinians attempted to smuggle an explosive-laden car into Israel. Earlier, the IDF arrested the Tanzim leader in Tulkarem, Hadi Hamshadi, along with one other terrorist who was trying to protect him.

The Tulkarem operation began on Wednesday as the IDF began a search for the terrorists responsible for last week’s bombing in Netanya.

Meanwhile, three residents of Kafr Manda in the Galilee were held on suspicion of planning terror attacks in the Haifa area at the orders of Islamic Jihad officials in the Gaza Strip, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. According to details released so far, the three are cousins who admitted to establishing a cell at the beginning of March and were arrested on March 17. They were identified as Mahmoud Abed al-Halim, 23, Ibrahim Abed al-Hamid, and Muhammad Abed al-Hamid, both 22. Halim founded the cell and was considered to be its spiritual leader. His first contact with Islamic Jihad officials started last November, when he traveled to Mecca with a group of Israeli Arabs. The three men reportedly checked out a discotheque, a shopping mall, and a coffeehouse prior to their arrest. "Once again we are witnessing a grave affair that the police and the Israel Security Agency succeeded in cracking, luckily for us," Galilee district police chief Dep.-Cmdr. Dov Lutsky told reporters.

Earlier in the week, the ISA released details of three men from Jaljulya who operated a bomb factory in the town on behalf of the Islamic Jihad. They had scouted a location to perpetrate a homicide bomb attack and were to have led the bomber to the site.


US to EU: MidEast Road Map Will be Implemented but It Cannot Be Imposed
The United States told European leaders that it was determined to move forward on the road map for peace but warned that it could not be imposed on the parties involved, HA’ARETZ reported. US Secretary of State Colin Powell – in Brussels to confer with his European allies about the war in Iraq – told his audience that he intended to promote the road map "as is" without amendments by either side.

The United States has promised to publish the details of its plan as soon as the Palestinian Authority prime minister is sworn in. While the Americans are open to minor changes in the road map, the overall structure of their plan is not open to discussion.

The plan calls for the Palestinians to put an end to violence and terror and hopes to pave the way for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Histadrut Plans General Strike on Wednesday
The Histadrut has called for a general strike to begin next Wednesday, in the wake of the stalemate in talks with the Ministry of Finance on its economic plan, HA’ARETZ reported. The strike will be launched unless there is a breakthrough in the interim.

Meanwhile, representatives of local authorities on strike enabled garbage collectors and nursery school teachers’ assistants to resume work today. However, inspectors did not issue parking tickets and municipal offices remained closed to the public. Government ministries and affilliated bodies, like the National Insurance Institute and the Employment Service, remained closed.

Studies in schools and nursery schools began at 9 am, as teachers continued to protest the drastic cut in this year’s education budget, which would lead to the termination of approximately 7,000 teachers. The chairman of the clerks’, administrative and service workers’ association, Leon Morozovsky, said the decision for some workers to resume employment duties was made "to give the talks between the Histadrut and the treasury another chance." Another reason was to give the public a respite before the situation intensifies next week.

The strike will encompass cabinet ministries, local authorities, government corporations such as Mekorot and the military industries, and statutory agencies like the airport, rail and postal authorities, as well as private businesses that have organized workers. The large banks and the stock market will also join in.

The president of the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce, Uriel Lynn, yesterday called on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to issue emergency rulings that will ensure the operation of various vital services.

Despite the impasse in the talks, the negotiations between the sides will continue in the next few days, following the cabinet’s decision not to present the economic plan to the Knesset for its first reading next Monday, but rather to do so a week later.


IDF Female Reserve Medic Unit Ready For Second Deployment
As American forces make their way to Baghdad to liberate Iraq, the Ministry of Defense, expressing concern that Saddam Hussein may unleash weapons of mass destruction, will not lower the high alert warning, HA’ARETZ reported. In addition, the Home Front Command has put 1,200 female reserve medics on call in the event of a biological warfare attack.

"We have been given beepers, and if there is an alert, we must show up and grab our equipment and go wherever we are ordered," the Israel Defense Forces medic unit head Shiri Mazor said. Mazor added: "The IDF is always prepared, especially if there is even the slightest chance of the public or soldiers being harmed. While we know chances of an Iraqi attack are very slim, the threat exists, and we have to be prepared."

Meanwhile, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz told the Security Cabinet on Sunday that the Ministry’s instructions to the country’s citizens to prepare a sealed room in their homes, and to carry their gas masks with them, remained unchanged.


BGU Developer of Natural Pesticides to get Prestigious Tyler Prize
Prof. Yoel Margalith, of the department of life sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, is to receive today the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement at a ceremony in Los Angeles, THE JERUSALEM POST reported.

Margalith is being honored for his discovery of Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) naturally occurring bacteria that is lethal to mosquitoes and black flies. According to the Tyler Prize executive committee, Margalith’s discovery "saved millions of lives with minimal environmental impact." Discovered 25 years ago, Bti is an environmentally safe biological pesticide found in nature. Used as a biological control agent, the bacteria kill immature mosquitoes before they begin to fly without harming the surrounding flora and fauna, including the natural enemies of larval mosquitoes. The introduction of Bti has led to the control of many fly-and-mosquito borne diseases, such as river blindness in Africa and malarial infections along the Yangtze River in China.

Created in 1973, the Tyler Prize is the most prestigious award for environmental science, energy, and medicine. BGU president Prof. Avishay Braverman said that the university "is inspired by Prof. Margalith’s work in disease control and salutes his achievements in endeavoring to preserve the delicate balance of the earth’s ecosystem." "In particular, we are proud of his collaboration with Palestinian and Jordanian scientists since 1993 to eradicate the mosquitoes in the Jordan Valley, as this work is an expression of our hope to build the bridge to peace with Israel’s neighbors in the region," he added.


Israel’s Chief Rabbis Retire
Israel’s chief rabbis, Yisrael Meir Lau and Eliahu Bakshi-Doron, completed 10 years in office on Thursday and bid farewell to their employees at the Chief Rabbinate, HA’ARETZ reported. At a ceremony marking the end of their tenures, Doron spoke of the need to separate religion and politics so that the rabbinate could function as an independent entity without any political affiliations.

Meanwhile, in light of a High Court ruling, the selection of two new chief rabbis will take place on April 14, some two weeks after the originally scheduled date. Sources at the Chief Rabbinate said that two new chief rabbis would indeed be selected on April 14, but noted that in accordance with a government-proposed amendment to the current law, only one chief rabbi would serve in office in the near future, with the second likely to be forced to step down.


Other News in Brief

* Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in support of the Iraqi regime, promising death to US President George Bush and burning effigies of the US President, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the JERUSALEM POST reported.

* As a result of the continued spreading of the SARS virus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel advisory, urging citizens to avoid the Far East, especially Hong Kong and southern China, Israel Radio, KOL ISRAEL reported. Ministry officials are calling on travelers to postpone trips to that region until the spread of the potentially deadly illness is brought under control.


Eco & Hi-Tech Briefs

* Alvarion announced today that its broadband wireless access (BWA) solution had been selected by China Telecom for its first commercial 3.5 GHz BWA network deployment, GLOBES reported. Alvarion, which operates in China in a strategic partnership with Beijing International Switching System Corporation (BISC), said the contract win confirmed the value of the partnership. BISC is a joint venture of Siemens AG and Chinese enterprises. The network will be installed in Shenyang, a city of 4.5 million inhabitants and the capital of the Liaoning region. Alvarion’s WALKair network will be used to support advanced voice and data access services, the company said. "We are proud to have been chosen by one of China’s most prestigious operators for this major deployment," Alvarion CEO Zvi Slonimsky said. "It is the first order given to any vendor in the new round of 94 licenses which were allocated at the end of February 2003 by the Chinese authorities. The win confirms the value of our partnership with BISC, which is a major player in the emerging Chinese telecommunications market as well as the superiority of our product."

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