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Israel Braces for War

By Israel Faxx News Services

According to Israeli media reports, the U.S. has informed Israel that an American attack on Iraq is likely to come between Jan. 27 and the end of February. Israel will go on high alert beginning Jan. 15. Sunday, the Education Ministry announced that schools will soon begin teaching children how to use gas masks. Teachers have already been trained by soldiers on how to handle a possible missile attack during school hours. The military will be visiting schools to make sure their sealed rooms and bomb shelters are in order.

War in Iraq is on the Way


Israeli intelligence bodies estimate that the American strike against Iraq will begin approximately one month from now. A British Ministry of Defense source reported that his country and the U.S. are planning a large penetration into Iraq via the sea, as the first stage of its ground war. Iraq is land-locked on all sides, except for a 18-mile stretch in the south of the country, near Kuwait, which is open to the Persian Gulf.

Preparations in Israel for such a war are beginning to get into high gear, though in a very low-key manner. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz visited the Home Front Headquarters in Ramle Sunday, and more gas-mask distribution centers may soon be opened. The Command is likely to soon begin distributing pamphlets to the public explaining how to prepare for war. In addition, following the safe smallpox inoculation of 15,000 security personnel, another 6,000 Israelis will soon receive the vaccination.

Hundreds of American soldiers are continuing to arrive in Israel to take part in Patriot anti-missile launching exercises two weeks from now. The Patriot batteries and their teams will remain in Israel after the war games, in case of a possible Iraqi attack against Israel. Former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Sunday that the U.S. is doing everything it can to avoid a pretext for Israel to enter the war.

About 1,000 American troops are due to arrive here in Israel this week for war games, ahead of an expected U.S. attack on Iraq. Israeli officials said the exercise would test out the Patriot anti-missile system, which is designed to intercept incoming Iraqi missiles targeting Israel. During the exercise, the Patriot will be integrated with Israel`s state-of-the art Arrow anti-missile system, and Israeli and American troops will coordinate codes and communications. The Patriot has been improved since the Gulf War in 1991, when it had limited success in shooting down Iraqi Scud missiles fired at Israel.

Israel is preparing for the worst, even though an Iraqi attack is not a foregone conclusion. "The military work plan has to be based on the assumption that missiles will be fired at Israel," former Israeli air force chief Avihu Bin-Nun told Israel Radio. But he added: "In my estimation the chances [of an Iraqi attack] are remote, especially when it comes to non-conventional weapons." Bin-Nun said a more likely scenario is that Palestinian terrorists or Lebanese Hizbullah guerrillas will exploit a war in Iraq to step up attacks against Israel.

Palestinians Postpone Elections; Cite Israeli Re-Occupation

By VOA News

The Palestinian leadership has postponed legislative elections planned for January until after Israel withdraws from re-occupied West Bank cities. Palestinian officials said Israel's re-occupation of seven of the eight largest Palestinian cities in the West Bank makes it impossible to conduct a campaign or hold a vote on Jan. 20. The Israeli army re-occupied the cities in June after a wave of suicide bombing attacks inside Israel.

The Palestinian decision to postpone the presidential and legislative elections was announced following a cabinet meeting on Sunday. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat called for the elections following pressure from the United States, the European Union and the Palestinian people who are demanding reform of the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli soldiers have set up roadblocks along Gaza's main north-south road, cutting the Palestinian territory into three parts. Saturday, Israeli troops shot and killed an 11-year-old Palestinian girl in southern Gaza.

Witnesses said Israeli soldiers opened fire as the girl walked home from school. She was the fourth young person to be killed by gunfire from Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip during this week. The Israeli military has not commented on the shooting.

Several hours later, a Palestinian man was shot and killed after Israeli authorities say he threw grenades and fired at troops near the heavily guarded Jewish settlement of Morag. The militant Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack.

The roadblocks were set up for security reasons, following an increase in attacks and warnings of attacks. The Gaza Strip is effectively divided into three parts. The army did not say how long the barriers would be in place.

The move follows the shooting death of a Jewish rabbi Friday near the Gush Katif block of settlements in the Gaza Strip.

The 40-year-old father of six was shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman in a roadside ambush as he drove to a wedding celebration with his family from the Jewish settlement where they live in the Gaza Strip. None of the other family members was injured.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials strongly criticized the United States for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israel. The resolution would have condemned Israel for the recent killing of three U.N. relief workers. Twelve other Security Council members, including Britain, voted for it while two abstained. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte called the resolution one-sided.

According to human rights groups and Israeli government estimates, 1,700 to 2,000 Palestinians and an estimated 670 Israelis have been died in violence since September 2000.

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