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Rabin Assassin Yigal Amir Asks to Wed on April 1


Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence for the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, has turned to the Tel Aviv District Court seeking permission to wed on April 1. In the petition filed by attorney Shmuel Casper, Amir seeks permission to wed and have his brother Haggai attend the wedding. Haggai is also serving a jail term for his part in the assassination. Prison authority officials previously turned down Amir's request seeking permission to get married.

Purim Terror Attacks Prevented in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

By & Ha'aretz

Government authorities Thursday reported that two terrorists, 16 and 17-years-old, were planning to perpetrate suicide-bombing attacks during last week's Purim holiday, in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The suicide bombing attacks were to take place in a Tel Aviv club and a Jerusalem restaurant of coffee house.

Also, several Arabs from PLO-controlled areas who planned to carry out a mass-casualty attack were arrested in the center of Tel Aviv on March 2, following an alert that terrorists had infiltrated the city. The alert brought extra police and major traffic jams to Tel Aviv, especially near the central bus station in the south of the city on that day. I

In yet another attempt at murdering Israeli civilians, security forces found a bomb on the approach road to Itamar, located 25 miles east of Herziliya. The explosive device was detonated in a controlled blast, without injuries. Arab terrorists were planning to commandeer a public bus and direct it to a PLO-controlled area where they hoped to conduct negotiations for the release of hostages, according to a report in the daily Ma'ariv newspaper.

The five-person cells planned to send one Palestinian wearing an explosive belt onto each bus and bring the buses to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The Tanzim activists - two of whose cell members work for the Palestinian Authority - said they decided to use two buses because they feared that an Israeli sniper would kill one of the hijackers.

Information on the Tanzim plans was gleaned from cell members, who were arrested and questioned by security forces after they discovered that the group was responsible for the recent bombings of buses 14 and 19 in Jerusalem, in which 19 people were killed. The cell received instructions from Ahmed Mugrabi, who was one of the Tanzim military wing leaders in Bethlehem and has been imprisoned since 2002.

Sharon Uninvited to White House: Foreign Minister Heads to U.S.

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Israel's foreign minister left Thursday for the United States, where he will hold talks with senior U.S. and U.N. officials on Israel's unilateral disengagement plans. His trip is also meant to set the stage for a future meeting between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Until three days ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was still unsuccessful in his bid for a White House reception at which he could propose his Gaza withdrawal plan. Dov Weisglas, head of the Prime Minister's Bureau, was dispatched to Washington to try and secure this meeting. On Tuesday unofficial announcements hailing a tentative meeting between Sharon and President George W. Bush were leaked to the press.

That meeting was cancelled, with no make-up date offered. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom quickly boarded a flight to the U.S. to see if he could salvage the meeting, which seems to be Sharon's sole strategic goal at this juncture. Various reasons were offered explaining Washington's unwillingness to take part in the meeting and endorsement of a Gaza withdrawal.

Bush has reportedly noted the growing opposition in Israel to Sharon's Gaza plan - from IDF chiefs, to the Knesset, and even amongst the left wing. He has therefore taken a step back - deciding not to allow Sharon to use an American endorsement of his plan as a way of bypassing Israeli public opinion, as well as that of his own Likud party.

In addition to those considerations, Israel News Agency sources indicated that in coming days a major announcement regarding charges against the Prime Minister and his sons is scheduled to be made. The uncertainty of the ramifications of such an announcement, as well as its content, has made a meeting with Sharon into more of a liability than an asset - especially amidst the U.S. election frenzy. Many of Bush's supporters are conservative Christians and Jews opposed to withdrawals from any part of the Land of Israel and the president fears losing their important votes in places like Florida.

"The prime minister wants President Bush to stand next to him on the White House lawn and endorse the withdrawal plan without reservation," a Sharon aide told Middle East Newsline. "It's a matter of a few sentences, but this could determine the success of the plan."

Foreign Minister Shalom's first stop will be New York where he will brief U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Israel's plan to leave the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. He will then travel to California for talks with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before flying to Washington, the main focus of his visit.

Shalom is to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. His main aim will be to give the Bush administration more details about Israel's proposed unilateral moves, in the event that peace talks with the Palestinians under the road map to peace plan remain stalled. Those proposals include Israeli withdrawal from most, if not all, of the Gaza Strip, the scene of violence in recent days.

His visit is meant to lay the groundwork for a future Bush-Sharon meeting at the White House.

Knesset Bill to Aid Former South Lebanon Army Allies


A bill intended to improve the conditions of former South Lebanon Army members and their families currently living in Israel passed its first reading in the Knesset Wednesday. The SLA soldiers are Christians who lived across the Lebanese border who were armed and trained by the IDF to take part in the fight against terrorist forces. The bill, proposed by Labor MK Yitzhak Herzog, was unanimously approved by the 46 MKs present.

The legislation calls for improved compensation for disabilities incurred by former SLA members. It upgrades the benefits they receive to those received by retired IDF soldiers and even offers them the option of full Israeli citizenship.

After the IDF's hasty withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, more than 7,000 Lebanese members of the SLA, along with their families, sought refuge in Israel. Since then, most have opted to return to Lebanon to stand trial and imprisonment for helping the Jewish State. About 2,500 remain in Israel.

The new proposal will grant SLA members injured while in service with the IDF in southern Lebanon the same benefits as disabled IDF soldiers. Until last year, each SLA family received 3,200 shekels a month in benefits, as well as full coverage of accommodation expenses and assistance with local taxes. Last year, the monthly benefits were reduced to 1,500 shekels a month, with housing still fully covered.

Colonel (res.) Tal Raz, who trained and fought alongside members of the SLA during Israel's war in Lebanon, told Arutz-7, "They are in a dire situation. They truly are not able to return to their homes - members of Hizbullah are waiting for them with a promise of implementing the death penalty. We owe it to them to improve their condition - from the beginning we have not treated them in the manner which they deserve."

Raz stressed that it was a matter of returning a favor that was done for the State of Israel. "We are dealing with a population which we approached - living amongst them - who gave us great assistance in the struggle in southern Lebanon. Whoever was there and saw the relations between IDF soldiers and SLA soldiers knows that they deserve to be considered as retired IDF soldiers - they shared in our victories as well as our losses alongside us."

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