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Shin Bet Agent Killed in Terror Attack at Gush Katif Junction


A Shabak agent was killed, and eight security personnel were wounded, in a Hamas terrorist attack on an IDF position at the Gush Katif Junction in Gaza Tuesday evening. Five soldiers and three Shabak personnel were wounded, including one in critical condition, in the suicide attack. Two helicopters evacuated the wounded to Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva. The dead agent was identified as Oded Sharon, 36, a father of three from Gan Yavneh. The attack took place just before 7 p.m. at the IDF's Orchan position, targeted earlier this year by a tunnel packed with explosives killing five soldiers. The bomber detonated the explosives in an area designated for inspecting suspicious persons and vehicles. Following the attack, the IDF closed the Kissufim crossing and main road leading to the Jewish communities of Gush Katif.

Analysts: Corruption, Security Reforms Among Top Abbas Challenges

By Andre de Nesnera (VOA-Washington)

Mahmoud Abbas, the newly elected president of the Palestinian Authority, has to tackle major issues in the weeks and months ahead. Analysts say by receiving 62 percent of the votes cast, Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, has a mandate to institute needed reforms and move the peace process with Israel forward. He succeeds Yasir Arafat, who died on Nov. 11, 2004.

Many western analysts covering Middle Eastern affairs say Abbas faces a daunting task, especially when it comes to reforming the Palestinian Authority and improving the lives of Palestinians. In addition to relations with Israel and the peace process, Abbas has to address serious internal issues, including streamlining the security forces, reforming the judicial system, improving the economy and fighting corruption.

Seth Jones, Middle East analyst with the Rand Corporation, says the World Bank has a series of indicators measuring corruption around the world. "And they rank corruption in Palestinian society as among the bottom 15 or 16 percent in the world," he said. "In other words, concerning the Palestinian Authority: about 85 percent of countries in the world have less corrupt systems than the Palestinians. They really are in the bottom 14 or 15 percent. Also, if you look at public opinion polls among Palestinians, since the mid-1990s, you've seen an increase from about 55 percent or so of Palestinians who believe that their own Palestinian Authority is corrupt, to over 85 percent by the end of 2004."

Nathan Brown, Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington research organization, says to fight corruption, the Palestinian Authority must have the means. "The real problem is the absence of procedures, of real legal institutions, of accountability and this sort of thing. Everything is sort of run on an ad hoc basis. And so what they really need to do is pass a series of laws, build some new organizations or respect the ones that they have."

Analysts also say Abbas must find a way to improve the lives of the four million Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Fawaz Gerges is an expert on the Palestinians and professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. "At the end of the day, most Palestinians, like all people in the world, would like to put bread on the table. And when you have almost 50 percent of the population living below the poverty line, when you have in some areas unemployment topping 50 percent - the Palestinians live under horrible socio-economic conditions. And I think across the board, Palestinians tell us that the economic and social well-being, that the issue of the economic situation is as important as the peace process."

Gerges says the problems facing the new Palestinian leader seem insurmountable. "Mahmoud Abbas faces one of the most challenging jobs in Palestinian history: he has to tackle serious, substantial, existential, internal challenges such as the huge unemployment rate; such as [the fact] that you have 50 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line; such as endemic corruption; such as the need to institutionalize Palestinian life and rely on institutions; such as to at least unify the Palestinian security forces. It's a very long list of challenges."

Indonesian Minister Denies Accepting Israeli Aid


After accepting a planeload of aid from Israel, an Indonesian government minister told Al-Jazeera that Indonesia is not interested in accepting aid from the Jewish State. In an interview aired on the network on Jan. 13, the host asked the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for People's Affairs, Alwi Shihab, whether reports of the possible arrival of an Israeli aid team to the Aceh province were true.

The minister responded: "On the governmental level, we have heard nothing...We have no diplomatic relations with Israel. If there is a Jew, a Buddhist, or a Christian who is trying to provide aid, as our position is that we make no distinction between them, and that we will accept aid to support the victims of this disaster, we cannot say that a Jew is not allowed to provide aid, because it is a humanitarian act, which transcends the boundaries of religion and politics. However, as for a request from the Israeli government [to provide aid], this will not happen."

The clip, translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), said: On Jan. 12, the day before the interview with Shihab, an El Al plane carrying 75 tons of equipment donated by Israel and valued at $450,000 landed near the tsunami-affected area of Aceh.

The cargo included 16 tons of baby food donated by the Remedia and Materna companies, 30 tons of rice, flour, water, sugar and grains donated by the "Koach Latet" [Power to Give] organization as well as the Sugat and Osem companies, 5 tons of plastic sheeting donated by Hovav Plastica and Haogenplast, 20 tons of medicine produced by Teva Pharmaceuticals, donated through the "Koach Latet" organization, a water purification system valued at $20,000 produced by the Netafim manufacturer, donated by Shari Arison Glazer and the Shira Hadasha Congregation in Jerusalem (the manufacturer Netafim also donated a second system), a contribution of $300,000 of the Sacta-Rashi Foundation. Mark Solomon and the Friends of Yemin Orde Wingate Youth Village covered the cost of the flight and 10 communications networks produced by Gilat Satellite Networks, which provided two additional networks. El Al provided the plane at minimal cost, and the Defense Ministry and Maman provided quick, efficient and free service at the airport.

'Jenin, Jenin' Fabricated Footage, Funded by PA


The director of Jenin, Jenin, the controversial film that accused the IDF of committing atrocities during the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, has admitted the film was dishonest. Muhammad Bakri, the film's Israeli-Arab director, admitted in a deposition last week that he had falsified scenes, used information that was inaccurate and that the film had been funded by the Palestinian Authority, according to a WorldNetDaily report.

Jenin, Jenin claims IDF troops killed a "large number" of Arab civilians, mutilated their bodies, randomly executed and bombed women, children and the mentally and physically disabled, and leveled the entire refugee camp, including a wing of the local hospital. The film does not show any footage of the claimed atrocities. It does use the cinematographic technique of showing footage of IDF soldiers as "eyewitness testimony" of IDF "war-crimes" is being heard.

Those IDF reserve soldiers depicted in Bakri's documentary are now suing him. In his deposition, Bakri did not try to make the case for the accuracy of his claims, but said he "believed" the witnesses and did not bother checking the information they provided. "I believed the things that I've been told. What I did not believe was not included in the film," said Bakri.

Asked about a scene implying Israeli troops ran over Arab civilians, Bakri admitted to constructing the footage himself as an "artistic choice." He also answered, "no," when asked if he believed "that during the operation in Jenin, the Israeli soldiers killed people indiscriminately."

One of the most damning elements of the deposition was Bakri's admission that his film, which was screened as a documentary in theaters worldwide, was partly financed by the PA. He said Yasser Abed Rabbo; the PA minister of culture and information and a member of former PLO leader Yasir Arafat's executive committee "covered a part of the film expenses."

Jenin, Jenin also shows an elderly Arab man, Ali Youssef, who claimed IDF soldiers shot him in the hands and feet. Rehov interviewed Youssef for his documentary revealing that Youssef was standing in a housing complex with Hamas terrorists when he was shot once in the hand. Israeli medics treated Youssef's wound, found a congenital heart problem and no foot injury. They even brought him to an Israeli hospital in Afula for treatment.

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