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>Israel Faxx
>JN April 8, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 65

Increase of 8.5 Percent in Minimum Wage

The Israeli government has approved an increase in the minimum wage, bringing it to NIS 2,609.18 ($717.79) monthly salary or NIS 14.03 ($4.16) per hour. The chairman of the Histadrut Labor Union, MK Amir Peretz praised the move. Some owners of larger factories in the country stated this will now increase the financial burden placed on the already ailing industry and contribute to an increase in nationwide unemployment.

Israel on Alert After Palestinian is Killed

By Israel Faxx News Service

Israel, already on high alert after the death of a Hamas master bombmaker, beefed up security in Jerusalem Tuesday for fear of possible violence after police shot dead a Palestinian man in a late night car chase. Israeli police said they shot dead Bilal al-Salaymeh late Monday after he refused to stop his vehicle and tried to outrun two patrol cars in a chase along a road from Jerusalem to the Palestinian-ruled town of Ramallah. The victim's family disputed the police account. Monday night's shooting added fuel to a volatile situation and police feared Palestinian violence could erupt.

Israeli security forces have been on heightened alert for possible Palestinian guerrilla bombings following the death last week in the West Bank town of Ramallah of Muhyideen al-Sharif. Jerusalem police said the vehicle "hit several parked cars. A number of shots were fired, the driver was hit and he died later in hospital."

Mecca Haj Ends with Call for Israeli Holy War

By IINS News Service

On Tuesday, Muslim pilgrims seven times circled the Kaaba, the great stone monument in Mecca's Grand Mosque toward which all Muslims pray five times daily. The walk around the cubical structure is one of the main traditions of the annual pilgrimage, or hajj, being made this year by 2.3 million Muslims from about 100 countries.

In a sunrise sermon, Abdel-Rahman al-Sidess, one of the three imams at the Grand Mosque, called for "jihad," or holy war, to liberate Jerusalem from Israeli control and "end Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands." "How can Moslems stand idle in front of this bunch of aggressors," the imam asked. "We have to raise the banner of jihad to liberate our holy Jerusalem from the malicious Zionism, and we hope that day will be soon."

Palestinians Admit They Face Dilemma

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Palestinian Authority's announcement that Hamas rivals killed a Hamas military leader 10 days ago has created a rift between Hamas and the Authority -- with implications far beyond the ongoing controversy over the killing. The rhetoric is already harsher than usual, with each side accusing the other of lying, and Hamas accusing the Authority of doing Israel's bidding.

As most Palestinians celebrated the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha Tuesday, they had a couple of interesting political dilemmas to contemplate. Did members of Hamas -- devout Muslims committed to nationalism and to each other -- turn against one of their own and assassinate him on a dark roadside like gangsters? Or, did the Palestinian Authority -- the embodiment of most Palestinians' desire for legitimacy and democracy -- produce a lie to discredit Hamas and curry favor with Israel?

It is not an easy choice for most Palestinians. But Palestinian pollster and political analyst Ghassan al-Khatib thinks he knows what conclusion most Palestinians are coming to. "I think that the Palestinian public is not buying the Palestinian Authority's version that this is a Hamas assassination."

Al-Khatib says there are several reasons for this. One is the public sympathy for men like Mohyideen al-Sharif, who give their lives for the Palestinian cause -- even if many Palestinians disagree with their views on religion and politics. Another reason is the Palestinian tendency to blame Israel for any problems that come along, particularly now with the peace process stalled. A third reason is the interest the Palestinian Authority has in convincing Hamas members not to launch new attacks against Israel. And another reason is the general skepticism about official pronouncements in such cases throughout the region, which have frequently proven to be based either on a lack of facts or a political motivation.

Many Palestinians will conclude the official Palestinian explanation is wrong specifically because it is an official explanation, and more so because it serves the interests of the Palestinian Authority and is critical of a Hamas organization many Palestinians see as pure and patriotic, and still more so because it absolves Israel.

Al-Khatib says it is a phase that the Palestinian Authority must win, or at least survive, and that Hamas cannot afford to lose. "This is the real strength of Hamas. The strength of Hamas is not the technical ability of Hamas, or the military ability. The real strength is the popularity of Hamas, and this is what all the fight is about actually."

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