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Vanunu Informed of Release Restrictions

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Security officials have informed Mordechai Vanunu that upon his release, he will not be permitted to approach any foreign diplomatic installation to prevent his requesting political asylum upon his release from prison later in the month after serving a sentence for espionage. He was also informed he will not be permitted to leave the country following his release.


Israel to Try to Free Two Arabs Captured in Iraq

By Ha'aretz & Ma'ariv

The family of one of the two Arab residents of East Jerusalem said to have been kidnapped Thursday by insurgents in Iraq has asked Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat to intervene to ensure his safe return.

Iranian television station Al-Alam said Thursday that the two men - identified as Ahmed Yassin Tikati, 33, and Nabil George Yaakob Razuq, 30 - were kidnapped by the previously unknown Ansar a-Din group and showed footage of the men, who Israeli media said were Christians from East Jerusalem. In the broadcast, both said they were international aid workers.

The Iranian broadcast said Razuq and Tikati were Israeli and aired photographs of an Israeli identity card, a Macabbi HMO card, an Israeli driver's license and a local supermarket card, as well as a driver's license issued by the State of Georgia and a student card from Augusta College in Georgia. Relatives of Razuq told reporters he had attended university in Georgia. Razuq's uncle, Samir Razuq, told Army Radio on Thursday that his nephew is an Israeli citizen and holds an Israeli passport, and that he has no other citizenship.

Minister Gideon Ezra said that Israel would use diplomatic means to try to free the two East Jerusalem residents said to have been kidnapped. However, Ezra, a minister without portfolio, told Channel Two that both men were residents of East Jerusalem but not citizens of Israel, adding Israel would try through diplomacy to get them "out of the clutches of evil." Ezra also denied suggestions the abducted men work for Israel's intelligence agency, as they may have been coerced to say in the broadcast. "They are not couriers or agents of the Mossad," he said.

Palestinians from East Jerusalem are issued with Israeli identity cards. They are eligible for Israeli citizenship, although few apply for it. Samir Razuq said Thursday his nephew worked in Israel for USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, and left for Iraq to work for the agency two or three months ago. Nabil Razuq lives in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem and is married to a woman from the Czech Republic, his uncle said.

The abductors said in the broadcast they intended to negotiate over the captives. "We are a religious faction," a masked man said in the tape. "We have captured spies who belong to the Zionist enemy, and we demand the immediate release of all the prisoners who belong to the religious factions [in Iraq], especially the women. We will negotiate over these two captives."

Razuq's sister Lina told of her family's fear for his safety and called on Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat to intervene in the matter and to pass along to Iraqi figures that Nabil does not work for Israel or the United States and that he is "a Palestinian who for the first time left the territory of Palestine in a search for a livelihood." Palestinian sources told the Itim news agency that Arafat's office was closely monitoring developments in the case.

The security establishment recently received general warnings of the danger that Israeli citizens in Iraq might be kidnapped. One of the warnings dealt with the abduction of Israeli journalists. Security sources reiterated Thursday that Iraq is still defined a hostile state and that all Israeli citizens are forbidden from entering its territory.

"The Israelis who were kidnapped in Iraq are citizens of the nation and Israel will not renounce its nationals. But in practice, Israel cannot do much to push for their release", Yoram Schweitzer, an international terror expert and researcher at the Yaffe Center for Strategic Studies in Tel-Aviv said Thursday.

"The kidnappers' goal is to spark a dispute between Israel and the U.S. by turning Israel into a pressure tool on the Americans. In the past, there have been instances in which Americans had been abducted and the demands were directed at Israel, for instance in the TWA 1985 hijacking. Back then, a U.S. plane was kidnapped and Israel was forced to release prisoners", Schweitzer added.


Palestinian Official: Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza Could Set Stage for CeaseFire

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian foreign minister said an Israeli pullout from Gaza could set the stage for a ceasefire involving all Palestinian factions, including Hamas. The minister also said the international community would need to provide massive economic support for the rebuilding of Gaza, following an Israeli withdrawal.

Shaath defended Palestinian chieftain Yasir Arafat's decision to hold talks on bringing the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the Palestinian Authority. Both groups have carried out frequent suicide bombings and other terror attacks that have killed hundreds of Israelis.

The U.S. government has labeled Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups, and has warned against bringing them into the Palestinian Authority. But Shaath said the inclusion of those groups in the Palestinian Authority could help bring about a truce. Shaath's comments came as the Palestinian Authority prepares to hold another round of talks with the armed groups this Saturday in Gaza.

The foreign minister also said an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza must be followed by a firm international economic plan to develop the poverty-stricken territory. "And once it happens, that the Americans would be ready with the World Bank and other donors to make massive economic support for the Palestinian Authority, in terms of relief, reconstruction, economic activities, labor, job creation and others." h.

Shaath was responding to recent statements by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who said that, in the absence of peace talks with the Palestinians, he sees no alternative to a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. But Shaath warned that, even if Israel leaves Gaza, the Palestinians would not give up their long-standing demand for statehood, and their desire to implement the international road map peace plan.

"Nothing that will pre-empt permanent settlement [of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], neither on borders, nor refugees nor anything - this will not be accepted, unless it is part of the [international] road map [peace plan], and it should be coordinated with the Palestinians," said the Palestinian foreign minister.


Israel Sparks Dispute with Vatican, Other Christian Bodies

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel has sparked a dispute with the Vatican and other Christian institutions by refusing to renew the visas of some members of the clergy and church volunteers. The Vatican's representatives in the Holy Land said it was intolerable that nuns and priests have been detained after their visas expired.

The Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land said at least 138 Catholic clergy have not had their visas renewed by the Israeli Government. Hundreds of others from other denominations say they are in the same position. Many of them are Arabs, and are undergoing special security checks. Israeli officials say that is the cause of the delays in processing their requests to extend their visas. But other members of the Christian clergy who are not Arabs have been similarly affected.

Immigration authorities detained a Polish priest in March as he was traveling to his studies at a university in Tel Aviv. He was later released. In Jerusalem, Israeli police removed a nun from her car because she could not produce the proper papers, but she was not detained.

Eli Varon, a top advisor to the Israeli Interior Minister said the government was aware of the problem and the issue is being given serious attention." We are aware this has always been a matter of concern for the churches in Israel. We will soon bring this matter to a satisfactory solution." Varon gave these assurances after his Minister, Avraham Poraz, issued a request to the Immigration Police not to arrest Christian clergy in Israel, even if they do not possess the required residency documents.

Some Catholic officials said that Israel's treatment of the Christian clergy is in violation of a 1993 diplomatic accord with the Vatican. One priest accused the Israeli government of attempting to reduce the numbers of Christians in order to preserve the Jewish character of the State. But Israeli officials dismissed such claims as nonsense, and they note that the minister in charge of this issue, Poraz, is from an avowedly secular political party.












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