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Sharon Authorized Assassination Against Hamas Commander


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Channel 2 TV that he authorized the strike against Hamas terrorist commander Iad Elbiq, 27, who was killed in Gaza City earlier when an air force helicopter gunship fired missiles at this vehicle.

Sharon Says He Is Ready for Talks with Syria

By Reuters

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Thursday he was ready to reopen peace talks with Syria without preconditions, three years after contacts collapsed over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Sharon also addressed a fledgling U.S.-backed "roadmap" plan for peace between Israel and Palestinians, saying he saw new reformist Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as a "partner" for talks, unlike Palestinian chief Yasir Arafat. "I am ready to hold negotiations with any Arab nation, including Syria, without preconditions..." Sharon said in a taped interview on Israeli television. "The Syrians will of course have demands on us and we will for sure have demands on them. We are ready to sit and discuss these issues."

Syria has insisted any negotiations be based on the outcome of previous diplomacy and U.N. resolutions calling for the return of territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war -- terms rejected by the Jewish state. U.S.-brokered Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations broke down in January 2000 over the future of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel from Syria in that war.

On Monday, a source in Sharon's office said Syria had secretly approached Israel about resuming peace talks before the U.S.-led war on Iraq. Syria denied on Wednesday making any such proposal.

Sharon said his government would wait before entering into any diplomatic initiative with Syria to give time for U.S. pressure on Damascus to rein in Palestinian militants based there, as well as Lebanese Hizbullah terrorists, to bear fruit. "I held serious consultations with the foreign minister and we came to an agreement that we must wait a number of weeks to avoid interfering with American pressure on Syria or Lebanon to take steps necessary for the security of Israel," said Sharon.

Washington unveiled the "roadmap" peace plan last week after Abbas, a leading Palestinian moderate, was sworn in as first Palestinian prime minister in a deal designed to dilute Arafat's power and revive negotiations with Sharon's government.

Sharon said the emergence of Abbas from the shadows, as Arafat's long-time publicity-shy deputy was a welcome breakthrough for the chances of diplomacy 31 months into a Palestinian uprising led by militant groups. "I know him (Abbas) well. I have met him a number of times. I have no problem shaking his hand. I have shaken his hand. I think he is one of the (Palestinians) who understand it is not possible to defeat Israel with terror. I see him as a partner."

Sharon was referring to a campaign of suicide bombings and other violence by militants opposed to negotiations that Abbas has pledged to rein in as called for by the road map. It also calls on Israel to withdraw troops from occupied Palestinian population areas and dismantle Jewish settlement outposts to help set the stage for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by 2005.

Bush 'Very Optimistic' About Chances for Mideast Peace

By Paula Wolfson (VOA-White House)

President Bush said Thursday that he was very optimistic about the chances for peace in the Middle East. He spoke as Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared to leave for talks in the region on a new U.S. backed peace plan.

The Secretary of State will be meeting with the various parties to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, seeking to get their ideas on the so-called "roadmap" and get the peace process moving again.

The president said he is confident there will be progress. "I am very optimistic. That is why I am sending Secretary Powell there." Bush spoke at the end of a meeting at the White House with the Emir of Qatar. He made clear his optimism is based on the remarks of the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. "And the reason why we will make progress is the Palestinian Authority now has a leader in the prime minister who has renounced violence," he said.

Americans Discover Iraqi Intelligence Documents On Israel

By, Ha'aretz & UNI (India)

American troops operating in Iraq discovered intelligence documents on Israel, including maps of the Knesset, Jerusalem, Dimona [where Israel's nuclear reactor is located] and other strategic information, including a mockup of downtown Jerusalem.

One map that was found by investigators depicted locations hit by Iraqi Scuds in the 1991 Gulf War. A female mannequin dressed in an IDF uniform was also discovered according to the New York Times report, as was detailed information of Israeli army ranks and fine detail regarding strategic areas in Israel. The report containing information on Dimona was contained in a satellite photo of the nuclear reactor area.

In what began as a hunt for an ancient Jewish text, considered so far the oldest dating back to the 7th century, at secret police headquarters in Baghdad by U.S. soldiers from MET Alpha, the "mobile exploitation team," which has been searching for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in Iraq for three months, found maps marking terrorist strikes against Israel dating to 1991.

The soldiers never found the Talmud - but they did find the collection of intelligence documents. According to a former Mukhabarat official, the building had served as the operations center of the Mukhabarat's Israel-Palestine department. American military officers said the documents were significant, but did not in and of them provide proof of direct Iraqi involvement in anti-Israel terror, the Times reported.

Another document of great interest to the Americans that was discovered at the site was a "top secret" memo from the Iraqi intelligence station chief in an African country. This memo, dated May 20, 2001, described an offer by a "holy warrior" to sell uranium and other nuclear material to Iraq. The memo said the offer had been rejected due to the UN "sanctions situation," but that the source would be happy to renew the offer if Iraq felt able to accept it later.

The soldiers also found several Jewish books of more recent vintage than the missing seventh-century Talmud, including a Babylonian Talmud from Vilna, accounting books of the Jewish community of Baghdad between 1949 and 1953 and dozens of modern scholarly books, including "Generals of Israel," by Moshe Ben-Shaul, David Ben-Gurion's "Memoirs" and "Semites and Anti-Semites," by Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis, the Times said.

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