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Channel 2: There is a Plot to Murder the Prime Minister

By VOA News &

According to a Channel 2 TV News report Wednesday evening, there are persons who have decided to murder Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. An Israeli security minister says he has "no doubt" there are Jewish extremists who have already decided to try to kill Sharon or other top officials to stop Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip. Speaking on Israeli TV, Tsachi Hagnebi said he was concerned such extremists might act once the government begins removing Jewish settlements. Sharon plans to remove some 7,500 settlers from their homes in the Gaza Strip and another 500 from the West Bank. Most Israelis support the withdrawal, but many settlers are adamantly opposed to the plan.

Powell Expresses Disappointment Over Israeli Record on Settlements

By David Gollust (VOA-State Department)

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that the Bush administration is disappointed with Israel's record in dismantling settlement outposts in the West Bank as called for in the international Middle East peace "road map."

Powell held talks Tuesday with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who said Israel will comply "in the near future." Israel committed itself under the "road map" issued more than a year ago to tear down all unauthorized settler outposts erected after March of 2001, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to power.

But while some of the outposts have been dismantled, Israeli opposition lawmakers say others remain and are being supplemented with structures and paved roads and are taking on the appearance of permanent settlements. In a talk with reporters after meeting Shalom, Powell said the issue was a matter of concern for the Bush administration.

"With respect to the outposts, and other activity related to settlements and access, the minister and I had an open and candid discussion about it," he said. "I explained to the minister that we have some disappointment in the rate at which outposts have been removed and the minister gave me assurances that they are hard at work on that, and we'll be exchanging more information on the subject."

For his part, Shalom said the Sharon government is committed to removing the unauthorized outposts, even though he said the Palestinians have done nothing to implement their "road map" commitments. He said "tens" of such outposts have been dismantled already and that the United States has been given a list of the 28 remaining, which he said would be dealt with "in the near future."

The left-leaning Israeli watchdog group, Peace Now, said this week there were 53 remaining outposts.

In his comments, Shalom also defended Israel's controversial security barrier in the West Bank and expressed hope the United States and other sympathetic countries can head off an expected advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice next week that the barrier contravenes international law. He said the barrier has caused a "huge decline" in the number of terrorist attacks in Israeli cities while allowing Israel to eliminate many security checkpoints in the West Bank.

"We lost 1,000 casualties in the last three-and-a-half years and since we have built this fence, it gives us the opportunity to cancel 80 roadblocks within the territories, which gives more freedom to the Palestinians while they don't have free access to the Israeli state in order to carry out attacks against us," he said. "It gives us the possibility to cancel more roadblocks in the future."

Israel's own Supreme Court late last month ordered the Sharon government to re-route a segment of the barrier near Jerusalem on grounds that its current path violated the human rights of local Palestinians. The Bush administration, for its part, says the barrier is problematic to the extent that it intrudes into Palestinian areas and pre-judges the borders of an envisaged Palestinian state.

IAEA Chief in Israel, Sharon Sticks to Policy of Nuclear Ambiguity

By VOA News

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is in Israel for talks expected to focus on ridding the Middle East of nuclear weapons. Israel neither acknowledges nor denies having a nuclear arsenal, and has maintained a policy of nuclear ambiguity for decades. However, international experts say they suspect the Jewish state has as many as 200 nuclear warheads.

Ahead of his two-day trip, IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei said Israel should start talks on ridding the region of nuclear weapons whether it acknowledges having them or not. In a statement released Tuesday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel would not change its policy of nuclear ambiguity and would maintain in its hands all the force components needed for its defense.

Meantime, an Israeli court has upheld a government decision to refuse entry to a British journalist who reported on Israel's covert nuclear program in 1986. Journalist Peter Hounam was trying to enter Israel to help convicted Israeli nuclear traitor Mordechai Vanunu appeal restrictions placed on him after his release from prison in April. Vanunu spent 18 years in jail for revealing details of an Israeli nuclear plant to Hounam, who in 1986 wrote for Britain's Sunday Times.

Analysts used the Times' report to estimate Israel had as many as 200 nuclear warheads, a contention that Israel neither confirms nor denies. In May, the Israeli Interior Ministry said Hounam could still act to reveal sensitive information if allowed to enter the country.

Uganda Mulls Museum to Commemorate Entebbe Operation

By Reuters

Uganda's old airport may be turned into a museum to commemorate the daring night raid by Israeli commandos 28 years ago to rescue hijacked hostages, a Ugandan official said on Tuesday.

Israeli Special Forces troops stormed the Entebbe terminal, south of the capital Kampala, after Palestinian and German militants hijacked an Air France plane with some 100 Israelis on board and flew it to the tiny east African country. "We are refurbishing the old terminal building and looking at turning it into a national heritage site," said Ignatius Igundura, spokesman for Uganda's Civil Aviation Authority.

"One option is that we could turn it into a museum because it has that historical element of the daring raid by the Jews to rescue their people," he told Reuters, adding officials from the tourism and antiquities departments were being consulted.

The refurbishment was part of a 1 billion Uganda shilling (about $550,000) scheme to renovate the airport area, he said. International flights now use a new airport building close to the site of the old terminal. The old airfield is a back base for the UN peacekeeping force in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The 1976 hijacking and Israeli raid embarrassed Uganda's then dictator Idi Amin, who had exploited the incident in a bid to win Arab support. The hijackers demanded the release of some 50 Palestinians held in prisons around the world, and threatened to kill the Israelis among the hostages if their demands were not met.

But six days after the hijackers landed at Entebbe, Israeli commandos staged a daring 90-minute night raid at the airport and freed the captives. Seven hijackers were killed along with several Ugandan soldiers guarding the terminal. Two hostages also died in the battle, and their bodies were taken by the Israelis.

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