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Israeli Authorities Arrest Journalist Who Interviewed Mordechai Vanunu

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

Israeli authorities arrested the British journalist who interviewed Mordechai Vanunu in 1986 about Israeli nuclear secrets. Vanunu was convicted of espionage and treason. Media reports gave no further details about Peter Hounam's arrest Wednesday evening because of a gag order.

The journalist interviewed Vanunu for Britain's Sunday Times, which published pictures of and details about Israel's top-secret Dimona nuclear reactor. Hounam came to Israel in April for Vanunu's release from prison, where he was detained for 18 years for exposing the information about Israel's nuclear program. One condition of Vanunu's release is that he has no contact with the media, but it is not clear if this is why Hounam was arrested.

Hounam is considered to be one of the closest people to the nuclear-whistle blower. Hounam was scheduled to meet in Ramat Gan with Yael Lotan, an activist in a committee that worked towards Vanunu's release and against Israel's nuclear program. When he failed to arrive at the meeting, Lotan found out that Hounam was under arrest.

It was not clear whether Hounam was under full arrest or whether he was held for questioning. The reason for his detention was also unclear. Hounam was a member of the original Sunday Times team that interviewed Vanunu and then published his story in 1986. He left the paper several years ago and became a freelance reporter and also published books and produced films. Unlike the other members of the team, Hounam stayed in touch with Vanunu and was active in the public struggle for his release.

Hounam visited Israel frequently over the past few months, and has been staying in a hotel in East Jerusalem for the past 6 weeks. During his stay, he has reported to the Sunday Times on Vanunu's release and has been preparing a documentary on the affair for the BBC.

Amnesty: Attacks on Israeli Civilians - Crimes Against Humanity

By Ha'aretz

Amnesty International's newly-released annual report criticized the deaths of around 200 Israelis, at least 130 of them civilians and including 21 children, who were killed in suicide bombings and other "deliberate attacks" by Palestinian militants. This "deliberate targeting of civilians by Palestinian armed groups constituted crimes against humanity."

The report also charged that the Israel Defense Forces killed some 600 Palestinians, including more than 100 children, between January and December 2003.

According to the report, most of those who died were killed unlawfully, in "reckless shooting, shelling and bombing in civilian residential areas, in extra-judicial executions and through excessive use of force."

The IDF also comes under criticism for "certain abuses" that constitute war crimes, and gives the examples of unlawful killings, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel, the extensive and wanton destruction of property, torture and the use of "human shields."

Turning to life in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the report condemns the restrictions on movement for Palestinians, attributing "unprecedented poverty, unemployment and health problems" to this measure. The document also condemns the expansion of the settlements in the territories, saying that they have further deprived Palestinians "of natural resources such as land and water."

The report blames the West Bank separation fence for forcing "hundreds of thousands of Palestinians" into cantons, thereby cutting them off "from their land and essential services." It also highlights the demolition of Palestinian homes by the IDF as well as the destruction of "large areas of cultivated land and hundreds of commercial and other properties."

Report: Israel May Purchase Two Submarines from Germany

By Ha'aretz

Israel is planning to purchase two additional submarines from Germany; the German newspaper Bild reported Wednesday. Israel has in the past-attained three submarines from the German government.

The paper quoted senior government officials who said Israel has made preliminary inquiries regarding the possible purchase. The submarines, of the U-212 model, are manufactured in shipyards in the city of Kiel, and are considered very modern and hard to detect.

According to the report, German law prohibits the government from selling arms to conflict regions. However, in the past decade Israel has purchased three submarines, all funded by the German government.

The German government, headed by Helmut Kohl, agreed to supply and fund the three submarines after it became known that the Iraqi Scud missiles fired toward Israel during the Gulf war in 1991 were built with German aid.

Israel also decided to purchase the submarines from Germany rather than from the U.S. because the Americans only manufacture nuclear powered submarines and the German submarines are powered by diesel fuel. According to various foreign reports, the submarines are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

UN Denies Ambulances Used to Carry Away Soldiers' Remains

By Ha'aretz

The United Nations on Wednesday denied Israeli accusations that Palestinian militants had used its ambulances to spirit away the remains of Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed during a Gaza Strip raid earlier this month.

Peter Hansen, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, said in a statement he had demanded an apology from Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz for what he called "damaging and baseless allegations." There was no immediate comment from the Defense Ministry on Wednesday, the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

Militants blew up six IDF soldiers riding in an explosives-packed armored personnel carrier during a raid of Gaza City on May 11, snatching away the soldiers' remains and sparking a massive IDF operation to retrieve them.

Mofaz said the militants had used UN ambulances to take away the body parts, and had "violated the honor of Israeli soldiers." Jewish law states all body remains must be recovered to be part of a decent burial.

"I urge you... to issue an immediate retraction and apology for making such a wholly unsupported accusation," an UNRWA statement quoted Hansen as telling Mofaz in a letter. UNRWA, which runs six ambulances in the Gaza Strip, earlier said gunmen had threatened the lives of one of its ambulance crews and forced them to transport an injured militant and two of his armed comrades to a Gaza City hospital. Egyptian diplomats mediated the return of the soldiers' bodies after Israeli forces ended its two-day raid in the city.

An Islamic Jihad official had also dismissed Mofaz's charges, saying that after the attack, militants stormed the vehicle, took the body parts and then immediately withdrew. A second militant attack on an Israeli army armored vehicle on May 12 claimed the lives of five more soldiers, whose body parts were also taken by militants. A week later, Israel launched a six-day raid of Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza, killing over 40 Palestinians.

Hamas militants holding up the remains of the Israeli APC destroyed in Gaza earlier this month. (Reuters)

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