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$10 Million Offered for Information on Arad


The family of Ron Arad and the Born Free Foundation are offering $10 million for information leading to Ron Arad. The idea was put forward by Chen Arad, Ron's brother, leading to the press conference Tuesday at which the reward was offered, 18 years following Arad's falling into captivity. The newly launched website carries information in English and Arabic, in the hope of reaching the persons who may be holding Ron or know of his whereabouts.

Israel, PA May Have Agreed on Basis of Peace Deal

By Ha'aretz

Palestinians and Israelis have agreed in principle to proposals that could serve as the basis of a comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Egypt's official news agency MENA said on Tuesday. Egypt's official news agency said that significant progress had been made in international efforts to end Israeli-Palestinian violence. But both sides to the conflict termed talk of a deal premature.

Quoting unidentified high-level sources, MENA said the steps, including an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, had the support of both the United States and the European Union. "High-level sources confirmed an important understanding -- reaching the point of an agreement in principle -- has been completed between Egypt, Israel, the Palestinians and several active international parties, America and Europe, regarding a comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle," MENA said.

It said points under discussion included a Palestinian commitment to stop operations against Israel and to control Gaza and the West Bank, while Israel would stop military actions as long as the Palestinian commitment held. "(Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon does not find it necessary to sign a ceasefire agreement until the security and administrative capabilities of the Palestinian Authority are rebuilt gradually," the report said.

The understanding could lead to a "comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," MENA said. Israel and Palestinians term the report "a little premature," adding that it would respond positively if militants ceased attacks.

"There are a few correct elements but it's a little premature to say there's an agreement," a senior official in Sharon's office said. "We will respond positively if on the other side there will be arrangements for a ceasefire, a cessation of hostilities. However, it should be understood that whatever arrangement is reached, this is not a substitute for fulfilling the obligations the Palestinians have taken upon themselves under the road map," the official said.

Palestinian officials, playing down the MENA report, said the Palestinian Authority and militants were close to an understanding on a ceasefire, but more talks were needed. Palestinian sources were further quoted as saying that reports of an Israeli-PA truce agreement were inexact, but gave no further details.

There was no immediate official comment from Egypt, which has tried to play the role of mediator in previous efforts to ease Israeli-Palestinian violence. There has been a dramatic warming in Israeli-Egyptian relations in recent days, capped by the release on Sunday of Israeli Druze Azzam Azzam after eight years in an Egyptian prison on espionage charges. Egypt may return its ambassador to Tel Aviv in the near future. The sources told the news agency on Tuesday "the new spirit in relations (between the two countries) opens the door for his return."

Israeli Arab Caught Spying For Iran


It was released for publication Tuesday that an Arab citizen of Israel, from the village of Baka Al-Gharbia, was arrested last month for spying on behalf of Iran. Muhammad Ali Ahmed Sayid Ghanem was arrested on suspicion that he was recruited by Iranian intelligence during a trip to Saudi Arabia. During the visit, Ghanem met Iranian intelligence agents with whom he has been in touch ever since.

According to Voice of Israel radio, 57-year-old Ghanem received a number of assignments he was supposed to carry out in Israel on behalf of Iranian intelligence. According to Israeli police, Ghanem did not succeed in carrying out most of the assignments.

The Israeli-Arab spy was arrested on Nov. 9 on suspicion of aiding an enemy state during wartime and having contacts with a foreign agent. He has been under interrogation since then and an indictment was scheduled to be filed Wednesday based on Ghanem's confession, as well as evidence gathered during the investigation.

He was detained following an investigation by the Shin Bet security service and the police international crimes department. He is suspected of receiving money from Iran via the territories, which he then distributed to families of suicide bombers and Israeli Arab members of terror groups. He was also given the task of recruiting terrorists.

Israeli Soldier, Six Palestinians Killed in Gaza Fighting

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

A period of relative calm in the Gaza Strip was broken by a nearly hour-long battle Tuesday between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops that left one Israeli soldier and at least six militants dead. The violence erupted when militants exploded a booby-trapped chicken coop as Israeli troops approached the structure to inspect it. The blast triggered a gun battle that lasted for 45 minutes and involved heavy exchanges of fire. Four militants died in the shootout.

Later, two Palestinian terrorists were killed in separate Israeli air strikes in Gaza City. The militant group Islamic Jihad says at least one of its members was killed in the attack. Hamas claimed responsibility for the setting off the explosive device that killed the Israeli soldier. Islamic Jihad said one of its men was killed by the missile fire by the Israeli aircraft.

The fighting was the first major flare up since the death of Yasir Arafat, November 11. Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been trying to negotiate a ceasefire by militant groups, in the run up to the presidential election, January 9. So far, he has gotten no public commitment from the main militant groups to agree to his appeal for calm.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military announced it has ordered the elite navy commando unit - the Shayetet - to cease operations in the West Bank, while investigators look into allegations that the commandos had killed a wounded Palestinian prisoner.

Knesset Grants Citizenship to SLA Vets, Families

By Ha'aretz

The Knesset Tuesday passed a new law granting Israeli citizenship to members of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) and their spouses, parents, and children. The SLA was the longtime military ally of Israel until the withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000. A number of SLA officers and militiamen fled to Israel with their families, their status in the Jewish state unclear.

The Knesset Tuesday also determined that the government would work towards finding housing and employment solutions for SLA members, for which it will allocate a multi-year budget. The law equates the status of families of SLA members killed in battle to the families of fallen IDF soldiers, including eligibility for financial compensation and grants. Disabled SLA veterans will likewise be eligible for disability benefits.

In addition, the defense minister will give each SLA member a certificate attesting to his membership in the SLA. The law dictates that SLA members will be entitled to a one-time reward in recognition of their service in amount of NIS 40 thousand plus triple their wages for each year of service in the SLA.

MK Itzhak Herzog (Labor), who proposed the law, said that the State of Israel owes a moral debt to those who served in defense of the borders of Israel and should look after the welfare of their families. "This debt was partially repaid through this legislation. Currently we must make sure to integrate SLA members in employment and help them find housing solutions."

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