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Israel Increases Security for Government Ministers

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's security service, Shin Bet, is stepping up efforts to protect government ministers after threats by the Islamic militant group Hamas that it would seek revenge for Israel's assassination of a number of senior militants. In its latest attack against Hamas on Monday, helicopters killed at least two Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and wounded at least 25 other Palestinians. Hamas has vowed revenge for a number of targeted killings carried out by Israel against terrorists in recent weeks.

Mofaz: Arafat May be Forced into Exile

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's defense minister said Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat must go and may be forced into exile before the end of the year. Shaul Mofaz told Army Radio that Israel had made what he termed a historic mistake in not expelling Arafat two years ago. He said it's clear that the Palestinian leader was never interested in making peace and therefore needs to go. He added that Israel might have to decide soon whether to expel Arafat.

Israel has kept the Palestinian leader confined to his largely demolished compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah for most of the past two years. At times he was surrounded by Israeli troops and tanks, at other times he remained out of fear that if he were to leave, Israel would not allow him back.

While some Israelis, like Mofaz want Arafat forced into exile, others have cautioned that such a move would bring about harsh international criticism. Mofaz's comments Tuesday came amid a power struggle within the Palestinian Authority - between Arafat and his prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, who is increasingly unpopular at home, but has the support of Israel and the United States.

Arafat has denied U.S. and Israeli accusations that he supports violence and does not seriously back the road map for peace. The Palestinian leader has refused to cede full control of the Palestinian security forces to Abbas. That presents a major hurdle for the Prime Minister who is supposed to rein in and dismantle militant organizations that continue to carry out attacks against Israelis.

Palestinian officials have been meeting to try to resolve the dispute between the two men, with little success thus far. Palestinian cabinet minister Ghassan Khatib said Mofaz's comments only increase tension.

In the meantime the violence continues. The Israeli military said a Palestinian man was shot and killed at a West Bank checkpoint after he drew a gun on soldiers there. In Gaza City, a teenage girl died of wounds she received in an Israeli missile attack last week.

Hamas Leader Calls Upon the World to Rein in Israel


A prominent Hamas leader is blaming the UN and the international community for their silence over what he described as the "oppressive Israeli actions" and "ongoing assassination of Palestinians." Dr. Mahmoud al Zahhar, Hamas spokesman in Gaza told Al Bawaba, "this is the dirtiest age in history, as values and principles have been given up for no price."

In his comments regarding the threats of Israeli Defense Minister - Shaul Mofaz - Zahar said, "the Israeli threats are not new to Hamas...we along with the Palestinian people have become accustomed to them." However, the Hamas leader rejected the current Israeli fear for a reaction from Hamas, and instead, blamed the Israeli media for exaggerating the issue to help justify the assassinations against its movement's leaders.

"Israel does not need any justification for its aggression, as there is nobody in this world that can stand in the way of the Israelis. On the contrary, many sides support them in their aggression...even the UN is tarnishing its track record when it announces Palestinian freedom fighter as terrorists." Zahhar concluded, "The problem is that we are under occupation and have to struggle in order to get our freedom."

Judge Asked to Reopen Pollard Israeli Spy Case

By Reuters

A lawyer for Jonathan Pollard, a former civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who admitted spying for Israel, argued on Tuesday that his 1987 sentence of life in prison should be set aside because he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Lawyer Jacques Semmelman asked U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas Hogan to reconsider a different judge's ruling in 2001 that denied a request to set aside the sentence, which Pollard, 49, is serving at a federal prison in North Carolina.

Pollard, wearing dark green prison garb and a white yarmulke, sat at the defense table, never addressing the court during the 90-minute hearing. His wife and father were in the crowded courtroom, along with numerous supporters.

The judge took the request under advisement, along with a second request that the lawyers be given access to highly classified government documents from sentencing so they can more effectively pursue clemency for Pollard. It was not known when the judge would rule.

Pollard's lawyer argued he received ineffective assistance of counsel by his initial lawyer who represented him when he pleaded guilty and was sentenced, and then by his lawyer who represented him in his first appeal in the early 1990s. "He asks only for justice and a fair sentencing," Semmelman said. "He has never had that," asking the judge to "correct this miscarriage of justice."

Semmelman argued the lawyer's performance during and after sentencing had been "woefully deficient," in that he failed to file a notice of appeal and did not object to what Semmelman called breaches in the plea agreement. He argued Pollard's lawyer in the first appeal also had been ineffective. A government lawyer said the court does not have legal jurisdiction to reopen Pollard's claim, and that the request should be denied.

Pollard's other lawyer, Eliot Lauer, asked the judge to give them access to the classified documents, including a declaration by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger filed by the government right before sentencing. Lauer said the lawyers could better respond to the "innuendo" about the damage caused by Pollard's spying if they could see the declaration.

Pollard's initial lawyer had access to the declaration. Requests for access to it have been turned down by a federal judge in 1990, a U.S. appeals court in 1992 and twice by a federal judge in 2001.

Arrested in 1985 outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Pollard was convicted of espionage and sentenced for selling tens of thousands of classified U.S. information to Israel. His former wife, Anne, was sentenced to five years in prison for assisting him.

Pollard pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, but he later argued that the government double-crossed him. Prosecutors had promised not to seek a life prison term, which was the maximum he faced, his lawyers have said.

In 1987, Pollard told the sentencing judge, "I have come to the inescapable conclusion that while my motives may have been well meaning, they cannot, under any stretch of the imagination, excuse or justify the violation of the law." Pollard's life sentence was the most severe prison term ever given for spying for an ally.

Israel has acknowledged that Pollard was its agent but repeatedly has asked the United States to release him. Pollard's supporters in the United States also routinely request that he be pardoned.

A 1998 U.S.-brokered peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians nearly foundered when then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly linked his agreement to the deal with clemency for Pollard. Then-President Clinton said he had promised only to review the case. During deliberations on clemency, CIA Director George Tenet had told Clinton he would quit if Pollard were freed.

Federal officials reviewed pollard's case in 2000 but he was left off the list of those granted clemency just before Clinton left office. The Israelis have continued to press for Pollard's release with the Bush administration.

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