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680.000 Senior Citizens in Israel


Wednesday was observed as the international day paying tribute to senior citizens. There are 680,000 senior citizens in Israel, classified as persons older than 65. That number represents approximately 10% of the population. About 200,000 are classified as "poor" and many others are living in the bottom 30 percent of the economic ladder. Government monthly payments to assist the elderly usually amount to less than NIS 1,900.

Israeli Cabinet Approves Extension of Security Barrier

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Israeli cabinet has approved an extension of its controversial security barrier in the West Bank, despite international criticism that the project cuts deep into Palestinian territory. The cabinet approved the next phase of the project by an 18-4 majority after several hours of debate.

The decision came amid protests by the Palestinian leadership that Israel was attempting to use the barrier to seize more land in the West Bank. Israel said its decision was an attempt to balance the competing interests of its citizens who say the barrier is necessary to prevent Palestinian terror attacks and the U.S. administration, which is concerned the fence could harm international peace efforts.

Under the plan, Israel has decided to build a separate fence around the large Jewish settlement of Ariel in the north of the West Bank. Israel wants to eventually join this fence with the main barrier, hoping that Washington will give its consent to the project later. In the meantime, Israeli soldiers are to patrol the gap between the main barrier and the fence to be erected near Ariel.

Israel's deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said that Ariel must be protected but in a way that the government hopes will not antagonize the U.S. administration. He said the issue would be discussed with Washington and a final decision on the matter would be made in the middle of next year. Israel also decided to erect walls around several other Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership reacted angrily to the Cabinet decision. Palestinian officials said that the decision to continue building a fence in the West Bank would harm prospects for the founding a future independent Palestinian state. Israel said the fence does not constitute a political boundary and could be removed later if a lasting peace agreement is being reached with the Palestinians.

Israel Captures Top Islamic Jihad Leader

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Israeli forces have captured the top leader of the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. The group, which organizes terrorist operations, has vowed to retaliate with more attacks.

Israeli commandos swept into the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin and arrested Sheikh Bassam Sa'adi. Israeli officials said sniffer dogs were used to track him down as he hid underneath a car parked outside a mosque.

The operation against Sa'adi, described as the top leader of the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, also included 24 armed vehicles and two attack helicopters. Israel views him as one of the most sought-after Palestinian fugitives. He had managed to elude capture for more than two years.

Israeli officials said he had become the main organizer of the Islamic Jihad's operations and its leading spokesman in the West Bank, after other members of the group had been killed or arrested in Israeli raids last year. His twin sons were killed at age 21 in separate gun battles with Israeli troops last year.

His arrest immediately drew threats of more violence. Officials of the Islamic Jihad, which has carried out numerous suicide bombings and other terror attacks, said Israel would, "pay a dear price for the capture of their leader."

In other military raids, Israeli troops arrested 14 other suspected Palestinian militants near the West Bank cities of Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops searching for underground weapons smuggling channels near the Egyptian border blew up one suspect tunnel. The Israeli army said it also destroyed several nearby buildings that had been used to conceal weapons and by Palestinian snipers to fire on Israeli troops.

And according to a report, during a telephone interview with senior Hamas "politburo" official Mohammad Nazal, it was stated that Mossad Intelligence Agency agents were arrested in an unnamed Arab country in another failed assassination attempt against Hamas senior leader Khaled Meshal. However, reliable sources quoting members of the security services report that the report of Mossad agents arrested in an Arab country was false.

U.S. Seeks to Revoke Citizenship of Former SS Guard

By DPA & Racine (Wisc.) Journal Times

The U.S. government is seeking to revoke the citizenship of a former SS guard who it said participated in persecutions that included the killings of 7,000 Jewish prisoners in Poland.

The Justice Department filed a complaint Tuesday asking a federal court in Wisconsin to revoke the citizenship of Josias Kumpf, 78. The retired sausage maker raised his family in Chicago. Now he lives with a daughter and son-in-law near Franksville in suburban Racine.

The department said Kumpf was born in what today is Serbia and Montenegro, joined the SS in 1942 and went on to serve as a guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany until 1943 before being transferred to the Trawniki training camp in Poland.

At the adjacent Trawniki forced labor camp, about 7,000 Jewish men, women and children were shot to death on Nov. 3, 1943, while Kumpf worked at Trawniki. The Justice Department said in court documents that Kumpf admitted to department officials that he guarded the camp during the massacre, called "Aktion Erntefest" ("Operation Harvest Festival"), to prevent escapes.

In 1944, Kumpf was transferred again and went on to serve as a guard at the Majdanek, Buchenwald and Mittelbau concentration camps, the Justice Department said. He immigrated to the United States in 1956 and became a U.S. citizen in 1964 after lying about his service to Nazi Germany, which makes him ineligible for citizenship, the department said.

"During the Aktion Erntefest massacre, Jewish prisoners were forced to strip naked and lie on the corpses of other prisoners before they too were shot to death while trucks with speakers played loud music to drown out the screams of the victims," said Eli Rosenbaum, director of the department's Office of Special Investigations. Trucks with speakers played loud music to drown out the victims' screams. "No person who participated in such a shocking act of brutality should enjoy the privilege of U.S. citizenship."

Now, Kumpf waits at home, answering questions about his past and waiting for his future. "They can come and get me. I'm an old man, I don't care," Kumpf said of the government. "I don't do nothing to nobody. I don't even kill a fly. If they come and take me away, where are they going to take me?"

Martyn Adelberg, cantor of the Beth Israel Sinai synagogue in Racine, didn't know if Kumpf's alleged role in Nazi war crimes was true. But he said it was still important, even 58 years after the war, to punish people who took part in them. "If it can be shown he had direct participation in the massacre, then absolutely, justice should be done," Adelberg said. "I don't think that justice gets old or goes out of fashion."

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