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3 Palestinians, 1 Israeli Killed in Continuing Violence

By VOA News

Three Palestinians and an Israeli have been killed in continuing Middle East violence. Israeli officials said Palestinian gunmen Wednesday shot dead an Israeli civilian west of the city of Hebron. Officials said the Israeli man was working on the barrier that the Jewish state is building inside the West Bank. Also Wednesday, Israeli troops shot and killed three Palestinians in different parts of the Gaza Strip. The death of Yasir Arafat last month brought new hopes for peace in the region. However, while the violence has decreased, it has not stopped

Israeli Arabs Planned Suicide-Bombing ´Honeymoon´


The new Sbarro's restaurant on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road was targeted by an Israeli Arab couple whose plans to blow themselves up there following their wedding were thwarted by Israeli security forces. It was released for publication Wednesday that the GSS recently arrested a resident of eastern Jerusalem suspected of planning to carry out a suicide bombing together with his 16-year-old bride-to-be. The date of the scheduled attack was put off until after their wedding.

Ahmed Gazawi, an Israeli-Arab resident of the mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Abu-Tor, was recruited by Hamas handlers from Hebron who planned on using him to carry out an attack in Jerusalem. The same Hamas cell carried out the double suicide bombing in Be'er Sheva on August 31.

Gazawi was in the midst of gathering intelligence in order to carry out an attack on the Sbarro's pizzeria, a restaurant whose former location was the scene of a bloody massacre. He convinced his fiancée, only 16 years old, to carry out the attack together with him. During the course of the investigation it was revealed that Gazawi had friendly relations with Moutzab Hashlamoun, a Hamas handler from Hebron. They studied together at Abu-Dis University.

Half a year ago, Gazawi told Hashlamoun he wanted to carry out a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. The Hamas handler agreed and began to direct Gazawi on how to make his way, with a bomb, to a target, and how to maximize the number murdered.

Gazawi enjoys the benefits of Israeli citizenship, including an Israeli ID card. Using that ID card, he began surveying downtown Jerusalem's streets for targets. He visited Jaffa Road and chose the newly relocated Sbarro's pizzeria as his favored target. Sbarro's has become a symbol of the brutality of terrorist bombings after a particularly gruesome attack in August 2001. Hashlamoun then had Gazawi obtain chemicals and transfer them to Hamas bomb-makers in Hebron to construct bomb-belts.

Gazawi, though, decided not to do the attack alone. He approached his new fiancée, also from Abu Tor, who agreed to join him in carrying out the mass murder. In the end, Gazawi decided to postpone the attack until after the wedding. He told this to Hashlamoun, who was in the midst of planning the attack in Be'er Sheva that killed 16 Israelis. On December 15, Gazawi was arrested and handed over to the GSS for investigation.

Head of Germany's Jews Criticizes Immigration Row

By Reuters

The head of Germany's Central Council of Jews has criticized the tone of a debate sparked by plans to tighten immigration laws for Eastern European Jews, saying it assumes Jewish migrants have overrun Germany. "The discussion comes across to the public as if Germany has been swamped by Jewish immigrants," Paul Spiegel told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. "Since 1989 around 190,000 Jews have moved to Germany, and it is unlikely a further 100,000 will come," he added.

Germany has offered unlimited immigration to Jews from the former Soviet bloc since 1991, in an attempt to rebuild its own Jewish communities, devastated by the country's Nazi regime. In recent years the country has attracted almost as many Jews as Israel but now the Interior Ministry is considering restrictions. According to newspaper reports those allowed to settle in Germany in future will have to be under 45, able to speak German and to support themselves financially.

Spiegel said the heated debate on the issue bore no relation to the actual number of immigrants in Germany. "If you compare how many Jews were murdered during the Holocaust with how many have arrived and are likely to come, then the figures speak for themselves." Six million European Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.

Today there are around 100,000 officially registered Jews living in Germany, but many others have not joined communities and so do not appear in official statistics. Spiegel said he understood many of Germany's concerns on immigration, including those relating to welfare payments. "I also understand why Israel, a country modeled on immigration, worries that more Jews have moved to Germany recently than to Israel," he added.

When Germany first announced its policy in 1991 many in Israel criticized it, for drawing away potential migrants. Spiegel said the Central Council of Jews had not been consulted early enough on changes to the laws, and he stressed they should not be applied to prospective immigrants who had already been granted residency. Interior Minister Otto Schily said in a statement on Wednesday reforms would only take place in consultation with the Council.

The Berliner Zeitung reported last weekend that round 9,400 former-Soviet Jews were expected to come to Germany this year, exceeding the number settling in Israel by more than 1,000 for the first time. The newspaper also said Berlin's Jewish Community was under financial pressure because more than three-quarters of immigrant Jews were reliant on welfare payments.

Tourism to Israel is Up


Tourism to Israel continues to rise. In the first 11 months of this year, 1.358 million tourists entered the country - a 44% increase over the same period last year. Tourism this year is also 76% higher than during the first 11 months of 2002.

The number of tourists who entered by land is almost 150,000, which is practically double the amount of last year. Those who flew directly from abroad to Eilat numbered 36,500, over 50% more than in Jan.-Nov. 2003. Tourism to Israel in November 2004 was equal to that of November 2000, which was a record-breaking year for Israeli tourism.

Tourism Minister Gideon Ezra says that the goal for 2005 is to reach 1.7 million visitors - and that budgetary funding for his ministry had better be proportionate to this goal.

Negev To Bloom With Trains


Israel Railways, in a modern expression of David Ben-Gurion's vision of a blooming Negev desert, has announced a 7.5 billion shekel ($1.7 billion) program to connect Negev cities with Ashkelon.

The Be'er Sheva-Tel Aviv route is the only passenger service operating in the south, and the plan would connect the "capital of the Negev" with the development cities of Sderot and Netivot and with Ashkelon. Israel Railways chairman Moshe Leon revealed the investment program at last week's Herzilya Conference on national security and strategy.

The addition of the development towns also would bring train service much closer to the dozens of kibbutzim and moshavim in the area. Israel Railways also runs freight trains to Be'er Sheva for chemical companies operating in the Dimona and Dead Sea area.

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