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Sources: Taba Attacks Planned Outside of Egypt a Year Ago

By Al Hayat

Al Hayat newspaper reports according to "informed Egyptian sources" that the Egyptian authorities received information confirming that the Taba attacks were planned a year ago outside the country. The sources said intelligence indicated that a number of fundamentalists living abroad were in contact with Egyptians in the country through methods that included the internet to plan for the attack. Bedouins in Sinai admitted they had sold explosives to an Egyptian, who reportedly waited for the non-Egyptian attackers to arrive and carry out the attacks using stolen cars.

Sharon Agrees to Establish Likud Team to Consider Referendum

By Ha'aretz & Israel Faxx News Services

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected a fresh call by Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to hold a referendum, Israel Radio reported Monday, but the prime minister agreed to establish a Likud faction committee to examine all possible aspects surrounding a disengagement referendum, in the event one is held. Sharon stressed his continued opposition to such a referendum and said he would present the Knesset with a disengagement bill next Monday, devoid of any references to a referendum. A vote on the bill is expected next Tuesday.

The idea to assemble such a committee was presented by Knesset member Gideon Sa'ar, a staunch supporter of a referendum. According to Sa'ar's proposal, the Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Michael Eitan will head the team. Other proposed committee members are Likud MKs Gilad Erdan and Roni Bar-On. Sharon requested that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also be included in the committee.

The committee will examine all aspects surrounding a disengagement referendum; whether the results of such a ballot would be binding or not; whether a referendum would require a 51-percent majority, or a greater majority. Upon completing its work, the committee will present its finding to Sharon. A decision on the establishment of such a committee was not reached at Monday's Likud faction meeting and the faction will continue to discuss the issue in the future.

Sharon met with members of his Likud faction Monday afternoon, for talks on that possible referendum. Finance Minister Netanyahu said, "We are under threat of a schism in the party." "There are elements [working for a split] within the party and in the public that should not be underestimated."

Sharon has argued that a referendum on the disengagement could undermine and delay the planned pullout from Gaza, but a majority of Likud members, including seven other members of Sharon's coalition, are expected to back the referendum.

Sharon's government survived three no confidence proposals in the Knesset plenum on Monday. Two proposals, presented by Labor and Shas, were tied, with 54 MKs voting for the proposals, and 54 MKs opposing them. No-confidence proposals require a 51-vote majority to topple a government. A third no-confidence proposal presented by Arab parties over the IDF's raid in Gaza was defeated by the coalition.

In a related story, the Justice Ministry announced that settlers evacuated from their homes in the West Bank or Gaza Strip would not have to pay tax on their compensation money, THE MARKER reported. The average compensation package for a family is $200,000, and those who agree to move to the Galilee or the Negev desert would receive an extra payment of approximately $10,000.

According to the bill, anyone who owns property by the cut-off date of June 6, 2004 would be eligible for compensation, and would have up to three years to claim the money from the time that they were evacuated. The bill also includes a clause stating that settlers who oppose the disengagement would not be eligible for supplementary compensation

Karine-A Munitions Ship Commander Sentenced to 25 Years

By Ha'aretz

The Erez military court on Monday sentenced to 25 years in jail Omar Acawi, a colonel in the Palestinian Authority naval police who commanded the Karine-A, a munitions ship seized by Israeli commandos in January 2002 while on its way into PA territory.

Two other crewmen caught onboard, Riad Abdallah and Ahmed Kharis, were sentenced to 17 years in jail. The men were arrested on Jan. 3 2002 when Israeli navy commandos stormed the munitions ship in the Red Sea on its way from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. The ship was loaded with tons of weapons, including 50-mile range rockets, 122mm mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and explosives, all manufactured in Iran.

The three were also accused of involvement in other attempts to smuggle weapons into the PA, including in the smuggling of weapons onboard the Santorini, a ship seized by IDF froces in May 2001. A fourth man arrested onboard the Karine-A was released earlier this year in a prisoner exchange with Hizbullah. The IDF distributed the arms confiscated onboard the Karine-A to its units, which use them for special training.

UN, Rights Group: Israel Violates International Law by Destroying Palestinian Homes

By VOA News

The United Nations and a leading human rights group said Monday that Israel has violated international law by destroying Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip. In the report, Human Rights Watch said the evidence strongly suggests that Israel has exaggerated threats to justify demolitions in southern Gaza.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch says Israel's army has demolished the homes of 16,000 Palestinians in the Gaza town of Rafah over the past four years. The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said much of the recent destruction in northern Gaza is a "gross violation" of international humanitarian law. Israel said demolitions in southern Gaza disrupt arms smuggling and operations in northern Gaza stop rocket fire into Israel.

The Gaza offensive that ended Friday led to the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis. Monday, Israeli troops shot and killed four Palestinian men in separate incidents in and around the northern Gaza Strip. Israel Radio reported Israeli troops shot and killed two men who managed to slip across the fenced and heavily guarded border from the Gaza Strip.

95,000 Identity Cards Lost Last Year


According to Knesset Interior Committee officials, 95,000 identity cards were lost last year in addition to the 30,000 cards reported stolen. The numbers have police concerned - realizing in many cases, the cards make their way to PA residents seeking entry into pre-1967 Green Line Israel. There is also a sizable market for the identity cards among the many illegal foreign workers in Israel.

For a number of years, the country has been speaking about moving over to a computerized smart identity card that would contain a chip storing personal data. The tender for producing the card was awarded to HP which began manufacture of the first million, but was cut short after an appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the tender which awarded the contract.

Security agencies are particularly anxious to move over to smart cards which would be significantly more difficult to forge, seeking to abandon the outdated laminated photo identity which can be reproduced easily using a PC and a color printer.

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