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>Israel Faxx
>JN Sept. 2, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 160

Some Palestinians May Enter Israel

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Political gestures and rejections in the Middle East Monday illustrated the ongoing tension in the area, and the difficulty Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will have trying to bring the various parties together when she visits the area next week. The day's most hopeful development -- Israel's easing of its closure of the Palestinian territories -- was rejected as inadequate.

Israel announced Monday it will allow 4,000 Palestinian workers into the country for the first time since the Jerusalem market suicide bombing a month ago. That is a small percentage of the more than 50,000 work permits Palestinians held before last month's bombing. And only married men over 35 years old will be given permits because they are believed to be less likely to carry out suicide bombings.

This is the first easing of the closure for workers. Last week, 2,000 merchants were allowed into Israel, and that number was doubled in Monday's announcement. In addition, 250 teachers from the West Bank will be allowed into east Jerusalem for the opening of the school year. And some Palestinian Authority workers will be able to move between the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli government spokesman David Bar Illan denied press reports the move is a gesture in advance of next week's visit by Albright. The Palestinian Authority calls such closures illegal collective punishment, and described this partial easing as "cosmetic." And senior Palestinian negotiator Sa'eb Erakat also rejected Israeli claims the authority is not doing enough to fight terrorism.

Israel Considers Repaying Iranian Debt

By IINS News Service

Israel is holding high-level discussions about ways to repay hundreds of millions of dollars owed to Iran in a goodwill gesture to the moderate new regime in Tehran, Yediot Achronot reported.

The classified discussions centered on a proposal by Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon to ask Russia to mediate in repayment of the debt contracted with Iran before the country's 1979 Islamic revolution. Sharon discussed the issue with Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin during a visit to Moscow in June, proposing that Moscow purchase the debt from Iran and Israel in turn reimburse Russia, the paper said.

The debt concerns an Israeli company, Katsa, which secretly operated in conjunction with Iran under the imperial Iranian regime before 1979 to furnish oil to the Jewish state and operate an oil pipeline from the Red Sea Port of Eilat to Ashkelon on the Mediterranean.

According to Yediot, the Islamic regime which took power in Tehran claimed in 1979 that Israel owed it $650 million for oil purchases and to pay for Iran's share of Katsa's assets. The debt is currently worth more than $1 billion, the newspaper said.

Sharon is reportedly seeking a way to repay the debt indirectly as a step towards improving relations with the government of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a relatively moderate cleric who came to power earlier this month. The minister declined to confirm or deny the story.

Sharon has long favored renewing contacts with Iran, seen as a counterweight to Arab power in the Middle East, and as Israel's defense minister he played a key role in secret US arms sales to Tehran during the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s.

Israel Working on Arms Deal with Croatia

By IINS News Service

Israel and Croatia are reported to be working on an arms deal that may be worth more than $100 million. According to an exclusive report in the Haaretz newspaper, the sale had been facilitated by Israel's recent decision to establish diplomatic ties with the Balkan nation, despite anti-Semitic statements by Croatian President Franjo Tudjeman and an alliance with Nazi Germany during World War 2. Defense sources stated the arms and weaponry involved are classified as "non-lethal."

Fire in Mevaseret Reform Kindergarten

By IINS News Service

School did not begin Monday for students registered in the Mevaseret Tzion kindergarten, affiliated with the Reform Movement. The kindergarten sustained considerable damage in a fire which police suspect was the result of arson. At this time, police believe Orthodox Jews may have been responsible for the blaze. An investigation is underway.

Shani Winter Goes to Gan Yeladim

One-year-old Shani Winter was taken to a pre-school Monday by her father Mickey. Her mother, Anat, was killed in an Arab suicide bombing attack on March 21, 1997, in the Apropos Restaurant in Tel-Aviv. Shani was seen on international television as she was carried by a policewoman, and she was dressed in a clown costume. Her dad was injured in the blast and her mother died of her wounds, having been in close proximately to the explosive device. September 1 was her mother's birthday. Shani does not remember, she was only six months old when her mother was killed.

Lice Statistics

A study conducted by the Hebrew University School of Medicine says 15% of Israeli students, 4-13, are infected with head lice, a figure double the figures in most Western countries. 15,000 children in the Jerusalem area were checked representing a cross-section of Israeli society.

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