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>Israel Faxx
>PD Feb. 12, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 24

Israel Starts Release of Palestinian Women Prisoners

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel began releasing Palestinian women from its jails Tuesday. But a legal dispute slowed the process after only a few of the 31 planned for release had gone free, leaving the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat waiting in Ramallah to celebrate.

A group of Israelis who oppose the releases delayed the process by filing a last-minute appeal with the Israeli Supreme Court. Most of the women could have gone free anyway, but they refused to go as an act of solidarity with the others.

The women could have been freed a year ago, but they refused to leave prison when Israel's president, Ezer Weizman, declined to sign pardon papers for a few of them, who had been convicted of murder. Recently, the president changed his mind and the release was promised again in last month's Hebron accord.

In 1995, Israel freed more than 1,000 Palestinian men, but it still holds several thousand more.

Prisoner releases are a significant emotional issue for Palestinians, along with such matters as statehood and the future of Jerusalem. The issue is equally emotional for some Israelis, particularly when it comes to Palestinians convicted of committing violence against Jews.

Bibi Modifies Pre-Condition Request

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will not demand a reduction in attacks by Syrian-backed Lebanese guerrillas as a condition for resuming talks with Syria. But he believes such a reduction will be necessary for the talks to make significant progress. Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes bombed the guerrillas' radio station Tuesday, knocking it off the air.

Netanyahu traveled to southern Lebanon Tuesday, visiting Israeli army units in the border zone that Israel occupies. He has rejected calls for a unilateral withdrawal from the zone, saying Israeli troops will leave only as part of peace agreements with Lebanon and Syria which guarantee the security of Israel's northern region.

But on Tuesday, he also rejected calls by some members of parliament that he demand a reduction in attacks by the Hizbullah terrorists as a condition for resuming Israel-Syria peace talks. Netanyahu said neither Israel nor Syria should impose preconditions, but that he also believes the talks can be successful only if Syria ends what he called its "indirect war against Israel."

Hizbullah, which frequently attacks Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and sometimes launches rockets into northern Israeli towns, is backed mainly by Iran. But Israel says Syria's 40,000 troops in Lebanon can control Hizbullah's ability to operate. And Israeli officials say Syria often manipulates the level of Hizbullah attacks depending on the status of its troubled talks with Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli air force planes struck Tuesday into the part of Lebanon controlled by Syria. The planes rocketed and apparently destroyed the transmitters of the Hizbullah radio station, the Voice of the Oppressed, near the town of Baalbek. It was the first Israeli attack into the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in six months.

Reports from Lebanon say Israeli aircraft also made two other raids Tuesday, including one against suspected bases of a militant palestinian group (PFLP-GC) just south of Beirut.

Pollard's Wife Appeals to Netanyahu

Esther Pollard, wife of Jonathan, has written an "urgent appeal" to Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the eve of his trip to the United States this week. She wrote that her husband's health is deteriorating, and that he "is experiencing daily bouts of hemorrhaging."

According to Mrs. Pollard, "The prison doctor says that Jonathan needs an operation, and prison officials are sympathetic, but their hands are tied by the U.S. Government's excessive security precautions regarding Jonathan's movements...

"We have been given to understand that Jonathan Pollard is a high priority on the agenda for your upcoming trip to Washington this month... An extraordinary window of opportunity to secure Jonathan's unconditional release now presents itself... in your upcoming meeting with President Clinton. Mr. Prime Minister, it is incumbent upon you to bring Jonathan Pollard home with you once and for all -- home to the land for which he sacrificed everything."

Highway Junction Lights Turn on Only when Traffic Approaches

A new appliance in Israel is lighting a highway junction or crossroad only when vehicles approach it, with the light going off when they depart. The Public Works Department has begun applying this innovative device invented by an Israeli, Dr. Amnon Manor. It is based on a solar power storage unit activated by movement of vehicles.

Any vehicle within 350 meters of the junction sets off the light, whose power diminishes as the vehicle departs from the crossroad, and then goes off entirely. The same system is usable for pedestrian crossings.

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