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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 26. 1996, Vol. 4, No. 234

Escalation of Tension in Hebron

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem) & Arutz-7 Radio

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed talks about the future of Hebron Wednesday -- following a summit Tuesday. The negotiators met with orders to work intensively on the remaining issues. Officials predicted an agreement will be ready within a week. But previous optimistic predictions have proved false as a series of disputes blocked agreement through 10 weeks of negotiations.

Israel's new government is demanding security enhancements for the 400 Israeli settlers in Hebron, and is reluctant to commit to further steps until it sees how the Hebron withdrawal goes. The Palestinians are demanding a firm timetable for other promised steps, and are reluctant to change the existing agreement on the terms of the Hebron withdrawal.

Overnight, settlers in Hebron occupied some buildings in an effort to expand the settlement area and possibly block a withdrawal. They say the buildings were formerly Jewish property. Israeli soldiers and police cleared the buildings, injuring some settlers and arresting others. After the planned withdrawal, Israel is to retain control of the settlers' neighborhood.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the settlers' desire to stay in Hebron, but a member of his government said Wednesday they will not be allowed to expand their settlement in violation of the law.

Palestinian Arabs threw four firebombs at Jewish targets in Hebron Wednesday -- two towards the Beit Hadassah townhouses, and two at a Border Guard jeep. Early Wednesday, a large group of Jewish residents, accompanied by several members of Knesset, staged a temporary takeover of abandoned property, including the Magen Avot synagogue, adjacent to Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron.

IDF forces peacefully evacuated the protesters, but a struggle broke out afterwards between the residents and the police, in which two children and an elderly woman were hurt. The woman, together with eight others, were arrested, and a demonstration is being held at this hour demanding their release. Our local correspondent in Hebron, Aharon Granot, reports that the atmosphere in the city is tense.

The Hebron Jewish community is protesting the lack of action of the part of the Netanyahu government to halt the renovation of the abandoned buildings by the Palestinian Authority for the purpose of housing 600 convicted security prisoners (subsequently released in the framework of the Oslo accords) in them. The Magen Avot Synagogue was the first Chabad yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) in Hebron opened over a century ago; it remained operational until the Arab pogrom of 1929, when the Hebron Jewish community was massacred and expelled.

According to the Arab interpretation of the Oslo Accords, all Jewish property that was confiscated from its owners following the 1929 massacre and was not returned to the Jewish community, is to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority with implementation of the agreement.

Israeli Concessions

A series of Israeli concessions paved the way for the apparently upcoming signing of the Hebron agreement. Minister of Defense Yitzchak Mordechai decided that the road adjacent to Netzarim in Gaza will be reopened to Arab traffic. The road had been closed by order of previous Prime Ministers Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres, following a terror attack there two years ago.

Netzarim administrator Shlomo Kustiner said that the move is a very dangerous omen for the community; the residents protested the decision. Other Israeli concessions include the closure of the Yugoslavian Farm near Masuah in the Jordan Valley to Israeli farmers, the opening of King David St. (Shuhada) in Hebron to Arab traffic, and the opening of the Arab market in Hebron. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet again with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in order to advance the talks.

Teva to Market Copexone in U.S.

The Israeli Teva Pharmaceutical Co. has been informed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that it has been approved to market its drug Copexone in the U.S. The medication is an original product of Teva, for treating multiple sclerosis. The approval will help Teva receive similar approvals from other countries, including Israel. Its sales in the U.S. are expected to begin in February, but not later than April. The annual treatment by the drug will cost patients between $7,000 and $10,000. Teva's shares on Wall Street went up by 0.6 percent following the news.

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