Choose Day Below
10, 2003 —
Israeline — Monday,
November 10, 2003 —
** MURDERERS WILL NOT BE PART OF HIZBULLAH’S PRISONER SWAP
** U.S. CRITICAL OF NEW PALESTINIAN GOVERNMENT
** ISRAELI ARAB CHARGED WITH TRANSPORTING HAIFA SUICIDE BOMBER
** ABSENCE OF VITAMIN B1 IN BABY FORMULA CAUSES DEATH OF 3 INFANTS
** ISRAELI COMPANY DEVELOPS EARLY-STAGE SARS DIAGNOSIS KIT
** ECONOMIC AND HI-TECH BRIEFS
MURDERERS WILL NOT BE PART OF HIZBULLAH’S PRISONER SWAP
Terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands, such as Lebanese Druse terrorist Samir Kuntar, will not be part of a prisoners’ exchange deal with Hizbullah, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Hizbullah has put the expected exchange into question by demanding that release of Kuntar – the terrorist who headed the four-man Palestine Liberation Front squad on a murderous attack in Nahariya in 1979, in which Danny Hadan, 28, his daughters Einat, four, and Yael, two, and policeman Eliyahu Shahar were killed.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom responded to Hizbullah’s demand saying that Israel had "red lines" it would not cross. "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Kuntar’s release is out of the question, " Shalom said. "The murder of a family in Israel is unforgivable. I oppose his release. We have stated in the clearest possible terms throughout the negotiations that Kuntar is not on the list," he added.
Sharon’s special envoy, Ilan Biran, is to go to Germany in the next few days to put what Israel hopes will be the finishing touches to the prisoner swap. The cabinet narrowly approved the swap on Sunday by a vote of 12-11. The Israeli defense establishment has maintained the criteria that only Lebanese prisoners involved in attacks against Israeli installations in Southern Lebanon may be included in the exchange list, and not those who perpetrated attacks within Israel.
U.S. CRITICAL OF NEW PALESTINIAN GOVERNMENT
The United States criticized on Sunday Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei’s newly appointed government in which security control remains under the responsibility of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, HA’ARETZ reported. "The prime minister must have control of all of the security forces and Washington insists that terrorists and military organizations not under the control of the Palestinian Authority be disarmed and dismantled," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Amanda Batt said.
Israel was also critical of the new government. Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom said Sunday that the new Palestinian government "will be judged by its actions," adding that, "leaving security authority in Arafat’s hands is not promising." Qurei will present his cabinet to the Palestinian Legislative Council for approval on Wednesday.
Qurei compromised over his initial call for General Nasser Yousef to head the Interior Ministry, and agreed to the nomination of Hakam Balawi, a loyal supporter of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. The Palestinian premier said Saturday that Arafat had agreed to a security deal that would split power between the Interior Ministry and the National Security Council, which is under Arafat’s auspices but includes General Yousef.
ISRAELI ARAB CHARGED WITH TRANSPORTING HAIFA SUICIDE BOMBER
An Israeli Arab from the northern town of Umm al-Fahm was charged today with having driven the female suicide bomber who exploded herself inside the crowded Maxim restaurant in Haifa last month, killing 21 people, HA’ARETZ reported. According to the indictment, Jamal Mahnaje, 47, was arrested by police and Israel Security Agency agents hours after the attack at Maxim. He confessed to investigators that he had driven the bomber from the border of the West Bank to the restaurant and even dined with her prior to the bombing.
Detectives quoted him as saying that the terrorist, Hanadi Jawadat, contacted him by telephone the day before the bombing, asking him to drive her to Rambam Hospital in Haifa the following day. During the car ride to the hospital, Jawadat reportedly changed her mind, and asked to be driven to Hillel Yaffe hospital in Hadera. Reaching Hadera, she changed her mind again, and requested to go to Haifa. The two then stopped to eat together at the restaurant located on the southern outskirts of Haifa. Jawadat waited until Mahnaje had exited the restaurant to detonate the bomb that she had secretly carried.
Mahnaje said he had no knowledge of her intentions, but he admitted that her actions had appeared suspicious. The investigation showed that her original intent had been to blow herself up at one of the two hospitals, but that she eventually chose the packed restaurant as her target. Security officials believe she decided against carrying out the attack at the Hadera hospital because of the security arrangements in place there.
ABSENCE OF VITAMIN B1 IN BABY FORMULA CAUSES DEATH OF 3 INFANTS
The deaths in recent weeks of three infants from neurological and cardiological disorders were caused by the fact that the newborns had been fed using non-dairy Remedia baby formula that completely lacked vitamin B1 (thiamine), THE JERUSALEM POST reported. After lab tests confirmed the absence of the vitamin, the Health Ministry asked the parents of all babies fed with this line of soy-based formula during the last two months to see their pediatricians. Only those infants with clinical signs of beriberi (severe thiamine deficiency) will receive infusions of the vitamin in the hospitals. The Health Ministry indicated that 20 babies were suspected so far to have suffered damage to their central nervous systems during the past half-year. Five thousand children have consumed the product during the past six months.
Health Ministry Food and Nutrition Service director Dr. Dorit Nitzan-Kalusky said that Remedia – an Israel-based food distributor that imports the special line of parve (non-dairy) formula from Germany due to "kashrut requirements" – had not informed the ministry that the formula had been changed in April. This change resulted in the powder being produced without a trace of the vital vitamin, she said. Since the company did not ask for approval, the ministry did not make a special check of the formula, Nitzan-Kalusky said.
Ministry Director-General Boaz Lev told health reporters on Sunday night that he had asked the State Attorney’s Office to investigate the matter, as Remedia and Humana allegedly committed a crime by claiming on the product’s label that it contained vitamin B1 when it did not. It also marketed a product without ministry approval, Lev said.
Meanwhile, two separate lawsuits were filed today at Tel Aviv District Court against the Remedia company, HA’ARETZ reported. The plaintiffs are demanding that their suits be recognized as class action suits against the company. One of the suits is claiming compensation of some NIS 1 billion and the other is demanding damages of NIS 115 million.
ISRAELI COMPANY DEVELOPS EARLY-STAGE SARS DIAGNOSIS KIT
An Israeli company, BioShaf, is close to completing the first kit that can diagnose SARS at an early stage, ISRAEL21C reported. This breakthrough will help medical workers and officials control the spread of the highly contagious disease. The earlier SARS cases are detected, the faster sufferers can be quarantined and their environs protected. The diagnosis kit, which is designed to detect early-stage infection by the corona virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, has undergone Phase I trials at the Control Disease Center in Beijing and was rated as being 97.6 percent effective.
According to BioShaf founder and president, Dr. Shafrira Shai, the uniqueness of BioShaf’s kit is its use of ELISA technology – standing for "enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay." Since its discovery in 1960, ELISA technology has been utilized in an increasing number of biological and biochemical investigations and is proven to be one of the most powerful diagnosis tools available. The technology is based on the principle of an antibody-antigen reaction. If the SARS virus is present, the patient’s body develops antibodies, which can be detected using the antigen – synthetic segments of proteins deriving from the virus itself.
The company hopes to start marketing the kit in China and Southeast Asia within months, and if FDA approval is granted, to take the product to the American market. BioShaf is also working on establishing a joint venture to develop an immunization against SARS.
ECONOMIC AND HI-TECH BRIEFS
Chipmaker Intel plans to invest up to $600 million in upgrading its Kiryat Gat manufacturing facilities, HA’ARETZ reported. Intel will submit an application for $120 million in grants – 20 percent of the planned investment – to the Industry and Trade Ministry’s Investment Promotion Center. Intel currently manufactures two-gigahertz chips at the Kiryat Gat fab for the Pentium 4, as well as other chips, all using 0.18 micron technology. More advanced Pentium 4 chips are manufactured in the U.S. and the demand for the Kiryat Gat-made Intel chips is disappearing. As a result, if the plant is not upgraded, its entire 2,200-person staff and 1,800-person support staff will be dismissed in the coming years as the demand evaporates.
Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu told foreign investors at a Go 4 Europe conference at Tel Aviv’s Hilton Hotel on Sunday that the now was an ideal time to invest in Israel, HA’ARETZ reported. "I promise you that if you don’t invest in Israel, you’ll be losing a lot of money," he said. "Israel is an amazing investment. Anyone who failed to listen to me half a year ago has already lost out on a 50 percent gain on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and will continue to lose out if they do not invest now," Netanyahu stated. Netanyahu added that a major foreign company would soon be announcing a $500 million investment in Israel. Meanwhile, the government is acting to push a law through the Knesset exempting major investors in the Negev and Galilee regions from corporate and dividend taxes for life.
[Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Victor Chemtob and Dina Wosner at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.]
November 12 ,
Israeline — Wednesday, November 12
, 2003 —
** GERMANY INVESTIGATES HUMANA WORKER IN DEATH OF ISRAELI BABIES
** TERRORIST PLANNING ATTACK AGAINST SYNAGOGUE ARRESTED
** ISRAEL WILL ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE WITH QUREI IF HE IS SERIOUS ABOUT REFORM
** MINISTRY SLAMS UN SECURITY FENCE ‘PROPAGANDA’
** OTHER NEWS IN BRIEF
** ECONOMIC AND HI-TECH BRIEFS
GERMANY INVESTIGATES HUMANA WORKER IN DEATH OF ISRAELI BABIES
Public prosecutors in Germany announced today that an employee of Humana – the German manufacturers of the Remedia baby formula linked to at least two deaths of Israeli infants – was under investigation for manslaughter, HA’ARETZ reported. The company took full responsibility for the missing Vitamin B1 content on Tuesday, when Humana’s managing director, Albert Grosse Frie said it was a result of "human error" during supervision of the production process – a reversal from statements made Monday, when Humana claimed independent checks had found Vitamin B1 in the product. However, a laboratory test revealed the product contained between 29-37 micrograms of Vitamin B1 per 100 grams of the product, while the label said it contained 385 micrograms.
In Israel, police questioned the CEO of Remedia, Gili Landsberger, this afternoon, trying to prove their suspicion that senior Remedia executives knew that Humana had removed the Vitamin B1 content from the soy-based milk substitute marketed by Remedia in Israel, Army Radio, GALEI TSAHAL, reported. Remedia officials said Tuesday that the company was not responsible for the lack of Vitamin B1, but rather, that Humana had made a change in the formula that Remedia had neither requested nor was aware of. However, Heath Ministry Director-General Boaz Lev called the change in B1 a "crime" and, when asked if Remedia had deceived the ministry and the public, remarked that "certainly, Remedia and Humana have complete responsibility over the product they sell." On Monday, State Prosecutor Edna Arbel authorized police to launch a criminal investigation of Remedia.
TERRORIST PLANNING ATTACK AGAINST SYNAGOGUE ARRESTED
The Israel Security Agency and the police recently arrested an Islamic Jihad terrorist who was planning an attack in Afula, and a suicide mission on a synagogue located in the nearby town of Shaked, HA’ARETZ reported. Under questioning, Muhammed Tushiya, 19, told officers that several days ago, he had set out for Afula with a 10-kilogram bomb. He said that because of a heavy police presence in the area, he had been forced to change his target to Shaked, where he would have detonated his device inside the synagogue. Seeing that police presence was also important at the entrance of the community, he decided to postpone the attack until later. The security service received intelligence information regarding Tushiya’s intentions and proceeded to arrest him.
In other news, five Palestinian terrorist opened fire on Israeli soldiers and civilians working near the Gaza Strip security fence today. Israel Defense Forces returned fire killing one the gunmen and wounding three. Earlier today, a Palestinian gunman fired on a group of workers making repairs to the security fence surrounding the southern Gaza Strip community of Morag, injuring one of the workers, who was taken to Soroka hospital in Be’er Sheva for the treatment of a moderate injury.
Meanwhile, according to Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, the Jewish town of Netzarim came under fire and was hit by a mortar today. An explosive device was found near the fence of the Netzer Hazani community in Gush Katif and was dismantled by sappers. In the West Bank, shots were fired at a border police patrol near the Nur A Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem. Three wanted Palestinians were arrested Tuesday night by Israeli forces.
ISRAEL WILL ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE WITH QUREI IF HE IS SERIOUS ABOUT REFORM
Israel expressed the hope to open dialogue with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. A Foreign Ministry official said that if Qurei was serious about reforming Palestinian institutions and promoting the road map to peace, then he "will find in Israel a serious partner." The Palestinian Legislative Council, meeting in Ramallah today, approved Qurei’s Cabinet by a vote of 48-13 with five abstentions, despite complaints about PA Chairman Yasser Arafat’s continued grip on security forces. Qurei called for an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire with Israel and a return to peace talks based on President Bush’s vision for two states. "To the Israelis, we want peace and security and independence that will not be realized unless we work together," Qurei said. "Let’s help each other stop this cycle of hell."
Israel said it would grant the new Palestinian government "a period of grace". A meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Qurei is allegedly possible. Ra’anan Gissin, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that, "any Palestinian government must pass the test of performance, then we can move quickly forward to the next stage." Gissin added that, "at this point we are easing restrictions on the Palestinian population."
MINISTRY SLAMS UN SECURITY FENCE ‘PROPAGANDA’
The Foreign Ministry blasted a new UN report on the security fence Tuesday, describing it as wildly inaccurate "even by UN standards," THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The report, prepared by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that once the fence was completed, some 274,000 Palestinians would be on the Israeli side. Foreign Ministry officials corrected that the number of Palestinians on the Israeli side would not exceed 100,000. According to the report, "more than 400,000 other Palestinians living to the east of the Wall will need to cross it to get to their farms, jobs, and services. This means that approximately 680,000 – 30 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank – will be directly harmed by the Wall." "As yet," the report continues, "the Israeli government plans contain no information on access gates through the Wall." A Foreign Ministry official explained that, in actuality, 42 gates already existed in the fence. He also noted that 95 percent of the barrier was chain-link fencing with electronic sensors, while only 5 percent consists of sections of concrete anti-sniper wall.
The report also claims that some 14.5 percent of West Bank land will lie between the fence and the Green Line. An official pointed that this figure was completely inaccurate, as a report released recently by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), put that number at 4 percent. The Foreign Ministry said the report "simply harms the trustworthiness and credibility of the UN. It is the result of unprofessional work, and simply reflects Palestinian propaganda." The ministry is weighing what measures to take to protest against the "propaganda in the report."
OTHER NEWS IN BRIEF
The second round of municipal elections was held Tuesday in 44 localities where no candidate won at least 40 percent of the vote in the first round early in November, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, reported. Likud’s Haim Barbibi was elected mayor of Kiryat Shemona. In Or Yehuda, incumbent mayor Yitzhak Bochovza was re-elected. In Ramat Hasharon, independent haredi candidate Yitzhak Rochberger was the victor. In Kfar Saba, the winner was independent Yehuda Ben Hamo who won over independent Yaacov Ohayun. In Ashkelon, Roni Mehazri was elected, as was Baruch Elmakayas of Yeruchum, and Meir Yitzhak Halevy in Eilat.
A video dated October 20 is the first proof that the four Israelis and three Europeans taken hostage by the Columbian National Liberation Army (ELN) on September 12 are alive, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The four Israeli backpackers and three other tourists were to have been freed last week in return for a humanitarian commission that would visit the Sierra Nevada mountains to examine the plight of impoverished villagers. The Columbian government is still negotiating with the guerrillas, helped by Roman Catholic Church mediators. The kidnapped Israelis are Benny Daniel, 26, and Orpaz Ohayun, 22, from Ma’ale Adumim, Ido Yosef Guy, 26, from Haifa, and Erez Altawil, 24, from Herzliya.
ECONOMIC & HI-TECH BRIEFS
Minister of Finance Benjamin Netanyahu briefed representatives of the rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, this week in New York, THE MARKER reported. He described the 2004 budget and budget cuts, along with the pension reforms, and loan guarantees. In a separate meeting with the heads of the two firms, Netanyahu detailed the government’s privatization plans, as well as the planned port reforms. He also spoke about the cuts in transfer payments and the plan for returning unemployed to the labor market. Netanyahu estimated that the 2003 budget deficit would be less than 6 percent of GDP, and that Israel would experience a 2.5 percent growth rate in 2004.
Israel is experiencing an economic recovery, led primarily by exports, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The recovery of exports is taking place in two stages, Lubin said. Low-tech sectors – such as food, machinery, and equipment – have benefited from the depreciating exchange rate and have seen the greatest export growth until now. Hi-tech exports have continued to decline, but should begin to grow more rapidly, especially if the Nasdaq continues to perform well, Lubin added.
[Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Victor Chemtob and Arielle Bernstein at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.]
— Thursday, ,
Israeline — Thursday,November 13
, 2003 —
** SHARON, QUREI TO MEET IN UPCOMING DAYS
** ISRAELI-ARAB HAMAS CELL NABBED
** IRAN TO BECOME NUCLEAR POWER IN A YEAR
** ISRAEL PRESENTS UN RESOLUTION
** OTHER NEWS IN BRIEF
** ECONOMIC & HI-TECH BRIEFS
SHARON, QUREI TO MEET IN UPCOMING DAYS
Members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ office have begun talks with the new Palestinian administration, paving the way for a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei in the coming days, HA’ARETZ reported. The meeting between Sharon and Qurei is expected after the Prime Minister’s trip to Italy next week. Ron Prossor, the Foreign Minister’s chief of staff met with Qurei’s bureau chief, Hassan Abu Libda. Both sides presented their expectations and discussed ways to make political progress. Senior Palestinian officials expressed understanding of Israeli security concerns and said they knew that without dealing with these issues, there would not be any progress. In addition, the Palestinian delegation said that Israel had to address the topic of easing everyday life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
After Qurei’s government won a vote of confidence on Wednesday from the Palestinian Legislative Council, he called for an international peace conference, a cease-fire with Israel, and elections by next June.
ISRAELI-ARAB HAMAS CELL NABBED
The police and the Israel Security Agency have caught four Israeli Arabs who were recruited by Hamas while studying in Jordan, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The arrests reveal efforts by Hamas and other terror groups to lure Israeli Arabs studying abroad into their ranks. Details released for publication reveal new avenues for recruitment undertaken by terrorist groups.
Security forces said that the four were in the midst of their advanced training stages, plotting attacks and looking to recruit more terrorists. The suspects were recruited while on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and were asked to compile intelligence information on Israeli bus routes, bus stations, malls and shopping centers.
The four were students in Jordan when they got in contact with Hamas members. While traveling in Saudi Arabia, three of them received instructions on how to conduct terror operations. They were taught how to work with explosives, create cover stories, behave if captured and transfer coded messages to other terrorists. One of the four, Malek Zuabi, told police that he met with Mahmoud Al Aisi, a senior Al Qaeda official and smuggled discs containing inciting material supporting both Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
IRAN TO BECOME NUCLEAR POWER IN A YEAR
Iran will have nuclear capability in one year, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Wednesday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. The Defense Minister was in the U.S. capital to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “We believe Iran can reach the point of no return in one year from now," Mofaz said. "From my perspective, the way that the U.S. [is] leading the effort to prevent this nuclear power in the hands of an extreme regime with long-range missiles has started to bear fruit. It’s necessary to continue with this effort."
Mofaz’s prediction came after both the International Atomic Energy Agency, and former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix issued statements that there was no evidence that Iran was using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce weapons of mass destruction. Blix told Reuters in an interview Wednesday that he did not believe the civilian nuclear reactors being constructed by Iran presented a danger to the world. A report yet to be released by the IAEA also reportedly claims that the organization had found no evidence of a secret arms bid in Iran.
ISRAEL PRESENTS UN RESOLUTION
Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations submitted on Wednesday a resolution to the UN General Assembly aiming to protect Israeli children from terrorism, HA’ARETZ reported. The proposal, dubbed "The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children," was disseminated to member states on official UN stationary, and will be debated at the Fourth Human Rights Convention. Israel last initiated a UN resolution in 1976. It dealt with aggressive Syrian behavior, but was withdrawn after Arab states attached riders that greatly altered its content.
The resolution presented on Wednesday includes two operative articles: One calls for the Palestinian Authority to "respect its obligations to undertake effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and the dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure, and to guarantee that those responsible for terrorist acts are brought to justice." The second article "requests the secretary general to report on compliance" with the resolution "within one month."
The new Israeli resolution
was to a large extent a mirror image of an Arab resolution concerning Palestinian
children passed by the General Assembly earlier this month. "We decided
to initiate a resolution on Israeli children to expose the hypocrisy and double
standards at the UN," Deputy head of Israel’s delegation Arie Mekel.said.
More information available at www.israel-un.org
OTHER NEWS IN BRIEF
The German official mediating a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizbullah is traveling to Beirut today in order to present the Israeli Government’s decision approving the deal to Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported. Nasrallah is likely to oppose Israel’s decision because it does not include the release of Samir Al Quntar, the murderer of the Haran family in Nahariya in 1979.
ECONOMIC & HI-TECH BRIEFS
Wednesday night talks on pension reforms broke down again between the Treasury and the Histadrut labor federation, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL reported. The Histadrut blamed Finance Ministry officials for reneging on promises made in previous negotiation, while Treasury officials claim the Histadrut’s exaggerated demands are impractical. Employee sanctions are continuing in government offices and Histadrut officials are again threatening to call a nationwide strike. Earlier, the Histadrut accepted a National Labor Court proposal to extend negotiations by a few more days. The labor court is to hold another session on Sunday to hear from both sides about the progress they made regarding the pension dispute.
[Today’s Israel Line was prepared by Tallie Lieberman, David Nekrutman, Matthew Miller and Victor Chemtob at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.]
— Friday, November 14 ,
Israeline — Friday, November 14
, 2003 —
** POWELL TO PA: ONLY TANGIBLE COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES COUNT
** HIZBULLAH COORDINATING WITH LEBANON ON PRISONER SWAP
** HAMAS TALKS ABOUT TRUCE; RULES OUT END TO ATTACKS
** OTHER NEWS IN BRIEF
** ECONOMIC & HI-TECH BRIEFS
TO PA: ONLY TANGIBLE COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES COUNT
Secretary of State Colin Powell told Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei on Thursday that the United States was looking for “immediate steps against terrorist organizations,” THE JERSUALEM POST reported. Powell phoned Qurei to congratulate him on the formation of his new government, but added that his cabinet would be judged on its actions. According to State Department spokesman Adam Erelie, Powell made the point that “performance is what counts, and that the Palestinian cabinet needs to declare its firm opposition to terror and to take tangible, immediate steps against terrorist organizations.” Powell also told Qurei the United States was disappointed that he had not won complete control of the Palestinian Authority security forces, which remain largely in the hands of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Powell added he was encouraged by reports that Qurei and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were planning to meet soon.
Meanwhile, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz promised senior U.S. officials in Washington that Israel would continue to devise ways to ease the burden on the daily lives of Palestinians affected by the construction of the security fence. In their meetings with Mofaz on Wednesday, Powell, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney did not hint about a reduction in loan guarantees because of the fence; rather, Rice, Cheney and Powell questioned Mofaz primarily about prospects for negotiations with Qurei’s government. Mofaz said he did not know whom his PA interlocutor would be on security issues, and was skeptical regarding Qurei’s abilities to crack down on terrorist groups due to Arafat’s continued control of the security forces.
HIZBULLAH COORDINATING WITH LEBANON ON PRISONER SWAP
Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said for the first time Thursday that his organization was coordinating with the Lebanese government on the prisoner swap deal with Israel, HA’ARETZ reported. Nasrallah pledged to bring home all prisoners held by Israel and said he expected to hear from a German mediator by Sunday on the proposed swap of prisoners and bodies with Israel.
Last Sunday, Prime Minister Sharon’s cabinet narrowly approved a prisoner deal under which the terror group would release Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers, all captured by Hizbullah in October 2000, in exchange for about 400 Palestinians and several dozen prisoners from Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Sudan and Libya.
The deal has become uncertain after Hizbullah demanded the release of Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar, who is responsible for the deaths of an Israeli and his two children in a 1979 operation in the Israeli coastal town of Nahariya. Israeli officials said Kuntar, 41, had "blood on his hands" and would not be included in the swap.
HAMAS TALKS ABOUT TRUCE; RULES OUT END TO ATTACKS
Hamas representatives are holding talks with Egyptian and Palestinian Authority officials to discuss the possibility of reaching a new cease-fire agreement, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said today that he was prepared to discuss a cease-fire with the new Palestinian Prime Minister, but ruled out any prospects for an immediate end to attacks. Mahmoud Zahar, one of the senior Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, said: "Meetings between Egyptian officials and Hamas have not stopped. We are also holding talks with representatives of other countries." However, Zahar said efforts to reach a new hudna (temporary truce) have not produced any results until now. Speaking about the "Geneva Initiative," achieved by Israeli politicians and Palestinian intellectuals, Zahar said: "Our position is clear: all of Palestine. Every inch of Palestine belongs to the Muslims. Some marginal elements in the Palestinian Authority have begun trading with the Palestinian cause as they did in Oslo."
OTHER NEWS IN BRIEF
A leading member of Islamic Jihad, wanted for involvement in multiple terrorist attacks, has been arrested in the Tulkarem area, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, reported. In other security-related news, an Israeli vehicle came under fire Thursday night near the village of Yabed. No one was injured in the attack. In the Gaza Strip, a mortar shell was fired Thursday night at a Jewish settlement in Gush Katif, causing no injury. An anti-tank missile was fired at an army position Thursday near Rafiah, injuring no one.
Canada added three Palestinian groups – the Palestine Liberation Front, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front General Command – to its list of terrorist organizations, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, reported. There are now 34 terror organizations blacklisted in Canada. People or organizations found guilty of dealing with listed entities are liable to up to ten years in prison. In addition, it is a crime to knowingly participate in, contribute to, or facilitate the activities of a listed entity.
As the civil servants union plans to intensify its sanctions at government offices starting Monday, port workers in Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat went on strike Thursday night, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, reported. The actions come in the wake of an impasse in talks with the Finance Ministry.
ECONOMIC & HI-TECH BRIEFS
Chipmaker Tower Semiconductor is hoping to raise $90 million through another offering on the Nasdaq exchange later this year, HA’ARETZ reported. The Migdal Ha’emek-based company submitted a prospectus to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thurdsay for the sale of 12 million shares plus options for an additional 1.8 million shares. The main underwriter for the issue will be the investment bank CIBC, with US Bancorp Piper Jaffray and C.E. Unterberg Towbin serving as secondary underwriters.
Elbit Systems has won a $6.5 million contract from the U.S. State Department to supply the Uzbekistan Air Force with two helicopter simulators, THE JERUALEM POST reported. The simulators will be used to train pilots for Mi24 and Mi8 helicopters in a high-priority project to enhance border security and ensure support to c Operation Enduring Freedom.
Today’s Israel Line was prepared
by Victor Chemtob and Arielle Bernstein at the Consulate General of Israel in