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IDF Strikes In ´Limited´ Response

By & VOA News

While admitting that "we don't see any change" in the Palestinian Authority's efforts to curtail terror, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and defense officials apparently have decided to hold back on a massive response to the Sunday evening attack in which five Israeli soldiers died. Israel is being "very careful" not to upset the atmosphere before the PA presidential election January 9.

Israel Air Force helicopters fired several missiles before dawn on the ammunitions factory. No injuries were reported, but electricity was cut when one of the missiles struck a generator. The factory apparently was used to make explosives, including mortar shells that have exploded daily on southern Gaza's Jewish Gush Katif communities.

Sunday's twin bombing of an army post and mortar and anti-tank shelling and gunfire accompanied a tunnel underneath the checkpoint. Army sources said they knew for several weeks Arabs were building a tunnel but did not know where. Terrorists exploded the half-mile tunnel and then sent suicide bombers into a nearby Army post, killing five Bedouin soldiers. Six others were seriously injured and are being treated in Be'er Sheva's Soroka Hospital. Five more suffered lesser injuries.

The assault near the border city of Rafah is on the Philadelphi route, which Israel has said it will maintain even after the withdrawal unless the PA shows it can control terror. Another explosion last week was in a tunnel reportedly designed to allow terrorists to exit near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, inside the pre-1967 border.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said he did not rule out more retaliation beyond the morning missile strike. He maintained that Sunday's terrorist attack was part of a Hamas campaign to upset the January vote for a successor to Yasir Arafat and to eliminate cooperation between Israel and the PA. Mofaz, speaking at a Herzilya conference, noted the terrorists struck at the international checkpoint where he said there are coordinated Arab-Israeli efforts. The minister, who is a former chief of staff, stated that the bombed outpost, where Israeli soldiers supervised travel to and from Egypt, was established after an agreement between Israel and the PA.

Mofaz also said that troops would be absent from cities in the Palestinian territories from the day before the Jan. 9 Palestinian vote through the day after to help ensure the election goes smoothly. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said aid Monday Israel wants to move toward peace, but sees no corresponding movement by the Palestinian side.

Syria Blames Israel For Damascus Blast

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

A top Syrian official said that Israel was responsible for a car bomb blast in Damascus Monday that wounded three people. Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan said Israeli intelligence or a group affiliated with it had targeted the vehicle of a Palestinian member of the radical group Hamas. The minister said the man and a family member were unharmed because they got out of the vehicle just before the blast.

Syrian officials called the attack Monday afternoon an "act of sabotage." The silver sports utility vehicle was quickly removed by Syrian security and rescue teams who were collecting shrapnel scattered on the street in the Mazzah area. Speaking to Syrian state-run television, Kanaan said a bomb placed under the seat of the vehicle exploded minutes after the Palestinian man and his wife stepped out for a dentist's appointment.

An Interior Ministry official said that the explosion was aimed at Palestinians living in Syria. "The vehicle is owned by a Palestinian. This points to a subversive action against Palestinian brothers in Syria," the unnamed official told the state-run news agency SANA. "

Katzav Proposes "Diaspora Knesset"


Israeli President Moshe Katzav told a Knesset committee Monday that he favors the establishment of a Jewish assembly in the Diaspora to help fight the alarmingly rising assimilation rate.

Katzav suggested that a "second house" - a play on words of the same expression in Hebrew meaning Second Temple - be set up to bring together Diaspora leaders in a permanent forum parallel to the Knesset. To be chaired by the President of Israel, the body would discuss the issues of concern to Jewry worldwide, and would try to find solutions. Katzav said that the assembly should also discuss ways to tighten the bonds connecting Jewish communities around the world with Israel and Judaism. "The intermarriage rate is more than 50 percent in the United States, Russia and Europe," Katzav warned, "and is getting worse."

The president's idea, while not inviting Diaspora interference in Israel's internal affairs, represents a major change from a policy that has lasted since the days of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion strongly resisted world Jewry's attempts to advise Israel on its affairs, and instead repeatedly appealed for Diaspora Jews to move to Israel.

"There are many day-to-day issues in Israel that have a direct effect on Diaspora Jewry and that require joint discussion," Katzav told the Knesset Committee on Aliyah [Jewish immigration to Israel], Absorption and the Diaspora. He cited anti-Semitism, terrorist threats on Jewish sites, Jewish education outside of Israel and the status of Jewish culture as some of the subjects that should be discussed.

Natan Sharansky, Minster of Jerusalem Affairs and the Diaspora, supported Katzav's idea, and warned that in the past few years, the detachment between Diaspora communities and Israel has grown. "We must do something serious, revolutionary and significant to change the worldwide trend of Jews drifting away from their Jewish identity," Sharansky said.

France bans Hizbullah satellite TV as anti-Jewish

By Reuters

A French court ordered a prompt end to satellite television broadcasts to Europe by Lebanon's Hizbullah terrorist group on Monday on grounds they were clearly anti-Semitic and a potential threat to public order.

The Council of State, France's highest administrative court, gave the French-based company Eutelsat 48 hours to end the broadcasts beamed from its satellites after finding them in violation of a French legal ban on hate speech. The court said Al-Manar could return to the airwaves if it modified its programs to satisfy French law.

France's broadcasting authority, the Higher Audiovisual Council, sought the ban after the station ignored its pledge to respect French law and accused Israel of crimes against humanity. "Taken together, the programs are clearly militant, with anti-Semitic connotations," the court wrote in its decision after viewing several broadcasts from Al-Manar. "It cannot be excluded that the broadcasts openly in violation of (French media law) could have harmful effects on public order," it added.

The conservative government and Jewish groups have pressed for about a year for a ban on Al-Manar, one of several Arabic-language stations popular among France's 5 million Muslims, who are mostly of North African origin. Paris has expressed concern about growing Islamist influence among disaffected Muslim youths and anti-Semitic views spread by Hizbullah murderers opposed to Israel. The United States classes Hizbullah as a terrorist group, but France does not. But the CSA had to license with strict fairness conditions and wait for them to be broken before it could ban the station.

This sparked vivid criticism, especially by leaders of France's 600,000 Jews who - like the Muslims - make up the largest minority of its kind in Europe. It took less than two weeks for the CSA to find enough material to ask the Council of State for the ban. The CSA cited as evidence an Al-Manar broadcast in November that spoke of "Zionist attempts to transmit dangerous diseases like AIDS through exports to Arab countries". The broadcast said Israel had "no scruples" about infecting Arabs and Muslims.

Al-Manar has said the French attempt to ban it from broadcasting went against the principle of freedom and that the channel had not broken a promise to report without bias. Eutelsat, which risks a fine of 5,000 euros for every day it goes over the 48-hour deadline, said it could only unplug Al-Manar by taking eight other channels off its service at the same time.

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