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Israeli Troops Arrest Hamas Commander in Hebron

By VOA News

Israeli radio reported that army troops in the West Bank city of Hebron have arrested a Hamas commander believed responsible for twin suicide bombings that killed 16 people in the Israeli city of Be'er Sheva in August. Palestinian witnesses said Imad Qawasmeh surrendered after Israeli troops surrounded his hideout. They said the building where he was hiding was demolished. In the Gaza Strip, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank fire as forces pushed deeper into the town of Beit Lahiya. Earlier an Israeli airstrike in the town killed a Hamas activist. Meanwhile, Palestinian authorities are investigating Tuesday's a car bomb blast near the office of Gaza City's Palestinian security chief Moussa Arafat, a relative of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. The Israeli military said it had nothing to do with the blast.

Israeli Report Cites U.S. Interrogation Facility in Jordan

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

An Israeli newspaper reported Wednesday that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a top-secret interrogation facility in Jordan, and that at least 11 suspected al-Qaeda militants are in custody there. Quoting international intelligence sources, Ha'aretz said the exact location of the detention center was not known. It said the use of foreign detention facilities allows U.S. officials to apply interrogation methods that are banned under U.S. law.

The Ha'aretz report came a day after the New York-based group Human Rights Watch issued a report saying at least 11 al-Qaeda terror suspects have "disappeared" while in U.S. custody. Jordanian officials call the Ha'aretz report baseless. The CIA declined Wednesday to comment on the Ha'aretz report, the BBC reported.

Since the war in Afghanistan ended three years ago, reports spoke of these special detainees being held outside the United States, but no location was mentioned. A report on these prisoners issued Tuesday by the Human Rights Watch organization claimed they were being held somewhere so secret that President George Bush asked the CIA heads not to report it to him.

The international intelligence sources that spoke to Ha'aretz are considered experts in surveillance and analysis of Al-Qaeda and are involved in interrogating the detainees. Most of the Al-Qaeda detainees who were arrested in Afghanistan in the course of the war or its aftermath were transferred to the American base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A minority was held in Pakistan, where some had been picked up, and were later moved to Jordan.

Their detention outside the U.S. enables CIA interrogators to apply interrogation methods that are banned by U.S. law, and to do so in a country where cooperation with the Americans is particularly close, thereby reducing the danger of leaks. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the CIA was granted special permission by the U.S. law enforcement authorities to operate "other laws" at the secret facility with regard to interrogation methods.

Detainees are subjected to physical and psychological pressure that includes the use of simulated drowning, loud music, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation. Some of these methods were exposed with the revelation of torture techniques used by American interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Sanhedrin Launched in Tiberias


A unique ceremony - probably only the second of its kind in the past 1,600 years - took place in Tiberias Wednesday: The launching of a Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish-legal tribunal in the Land of Israel.

The Sanhedrin, a religious assembly that convened in one of the Holy Temple chambers in Jerusalem, comprised 71 sages and existed during the Tannaitic period, from several decades before the Common Era until roughly 425 C.E. Details of Wednesday's ceremony remain sketchy, but the organizers' announced their intention to convene 71 rabbis who have received special rabbinic ordination as specified by Maimonides.

An attempt to reconvene the Sanhedrin was made several centuries ago in Tzfat. The body in fact ordained such greats as Rabbi Yosef Karo, the author of the classic Jewish Law code Shulhan Arukh. However, the opposition of other leading rabbis soon forced the end of the endeavor.

One of the leaders of the new attempt to revive the Sanhedrin is Rabbi Yeshai Ba'avad of Beit El. He said that the 71 rabbis "from across the spectrum received the special ordination, in accordance with Maimonides' rulings, over the past several months." Ba'avad explained that the membership of the new body is not permanent: "What is much more crucial is the establishment of this body. Those who are members of it today will not necessarily be its members tomorrow. But the goal is to have one rabbinic body in Jerusalem that will convene monthly and issue rulings on central issues. This is the need of the generation and of the hour."

Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who heads the Temple institute in Jerusalem, is one of the participating rabbis. He told Arutz-7 today, "Whether this will be the actual Sanhedrin that we await, is a question of time - just like the establishment of the State; we rejoiced in it, but we are still awaiting something much more ideal. It's a process. Today's ceremony is really the continuation of the renewal of the Ordination process in Israel, which we marked several months ago. Our Talmudic Sages describe the 10 stages of exile of the Sanhedrin from Jerusalem to other locations, until it ended in Tiberias - and this is the place where it was foretold that it would be renewed, and from here it will be relocated to Jerusalem."

Ariel said that the rabbis there included many from the entire spectrum: "Hareidi, religious-Zionist, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, hassidi, and many others - such as Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, Rabbi Adin Shteinzaltz and many others... We can't expect a great consensus; that's not how things work here. But sometimes that's how the process goes, from the bottom up."

Nile Crocodiles Found in Ramat HaSharon Homes

By Itim and Ha'aretz

Animal inspectors were a bit surprised to find two crocodiles in two separate Ramat HaSharon homes, house pets. The families explained they purchased the crocodiles at an animal fair in nearby Kafr Kassam, an Israeli Arab municipality, and planned to raise them as house pets. Officials explained that the crocodiles are very dangerous creatures and one may not keep them as house pets.

Police officers also discovered a number of baby crocodiles housed in a home in Pardes Katz on Wednesday, a day after two of the scaly reptiles were netted in a Hod Hasharon home. Police said intelligence information led detectives from the Dan region to the small crocodiles in the central Israel apartment, which were being kept in a container filled with water.

The apartment owner and his friend, both in their 20s, told detectives that they thought the animals were iguanas, and that they had received them from someone else. Both sets of crocodiles are believed to have been stolen at the same time, in a robbery last week at a farm in the south of Israel.

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