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Israel May Not Demolish Settlements after Gaza Withdrawal

By VOA News

Israel may not demolish Jewish settlements after the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip planned for later this year. The head of Israel's National Security Council, Giora Eiland, recommended not destroying the homes because it would prolong the pullout, increase the cost and create a mountain of garbage. Palestinians may want to have the mostly single-family settler homes demolished to make room for high-rise buildings, as there is a severe housing shortage in the densely populated Gaza Strip. Israel originally proposed last year destroying the evacuated homes in all 21 Gaza settlements to prevent Palestinian militants from living in them.

Large Truck-Bomb Attack Thwarted


A major truck-bomb attack that could have killed hundreds of civilians was thwarted Monday by the IDF and the General Security Service (GSS), which have been prepared for such an attack for a few days. According to an IDF announcement, the Islamic Jihad terror group in Tul Karem was responsible for the intended attack. The statement also reiterated the claim that followed Friday night's deadly attack in Tel Aviv, that the terror group is directed from its headquarters in Syria.

Monday afternoon, IDF forces uncovered a commercial vehicle rigged with a large amount of explosives near the village of Arabeh, near Jenin - an area slated for evacuation and handover to the PA under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. The rigged vehicle, which was in the final stages of readiness for the attack, was uncovered with a long cable protruding from it. The cable was attached to a battery and a video camera, intended for the documentation of the terrorist attack. IDF sappers detonated the truck-bomb in a controlled manner.

Israel: Evidence of Syrian Involvement in Tel Aviv Nightclub Bombing

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel said Monday that it has evidence Syria was involved in the bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub on Friday that killed five Israelis and wounded dozens more. It intends to present the evidence to representatives of the international community. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is to present the evidence to ambassadors of the European Union and all countries now serving on the U.N. Security Council. Israeli officials said, however, the evidence would not be made public.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accused Syrian-based elements of Islamic Jihad of being behind the attack. Syria denied the charge, saying the Islamic Jihad office in Damascus has been closed. Syrian officials also were quoted as saying that Damascus supports the current Palestinian peace efforts, and that the suicide bombing only hurts those efforts. Sharon warned the Palestinians must crack down on militants and dismantle what he termed the terror infrastructure before any progress can be made in getting peace talks back on track.

On Monday, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official said there could be no shortcuts in the fight against terrorism. Ron Posdor told Israel Radio the Palestinian Authority must act, and he said the international community must also do its part to put pressure on the Palestinians, as well as those countries that give sanctuary or support for terrorist groups.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday he would not tolerate attacks like the Friday night bombing, and he reaffirmed his commitment to finding peace. Abbas told Britain's Independent newspaper it would be irresponsible to let the chance for finding peace slip away because of the incident. He added that the Palestinians are exerting a "100 percent effort to end violence."

Tel Aviv Bomber Helped by Israeli Arabs


Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz said Mondat that that the terrorist who carried out the attack in Tel Aviv Friday night did not arrive in Tel Aviv by bypassing the separation fence. He said that a preliminary investigation ruled out the possibility that the terrorist reached Tel Aviv through a gap in the fence's route.

Mofaz made his comments in response to harsh attacks by pro-fence elements, among them former Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Uzi Dayan, who said that the attack could have been prevented if the government had built the barrier faster. Despite a gag order on the exact details of how the terrorist made his way to the crowded Tel Aviv beachfront, it has been repeatedly reported that the bomber was driven to the site of the attack by an Arab Israeli driver. Bystanders reported seeing the terrorist dropped off by a group of Arabs driving a white Subaru with Israeli license plates. Israeli Arabs travel freely between Judea, Samaria, Gaza and pre-1967 Israel.

Since the beginning of the Oslo War, terror organizations increasingly have taken advantage of Arab Israelis, with or without their knowledge. The Shin Bet security service said that from the beginning of the violence until August 2004, 111 Arab Israelis have been involved in attacks or the planning of attacks.

Settlers Bringing Babies to Evacuation will be Prosecuted

By Ha'aretz

The Justice Ministry on Monday said criminal investigations would be launched against settlers who use children in order to avoid arrest, and charges would be pressed at any event in which adults use children and babies to resist evacuation from settlements and illegal outposts.

Criminal probes will also be launched against adults who use children of other parents in order to resists arrest. The new policies were announced in a letter sent by the assistant to the State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan to the executive director of the National Council for the Child, Dr. Yitzahk Kedman. The decision was reached during recent discussions held in the Justice Ministry, in an effort to prevent settlers and right-wing activists from using children and babies while resisting the evacuation of illegal outposts.

The Justice Ministry also fears this tactic could be used by settlers during the evacuation of settlements under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. Hence, the State Prosecution has decided to make use of the section "breaching the duty of a parent or guardian," which appears in the punitive law.

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court in December sentenced three female settlers from Hebron to jail terms of two to five months for risking the safety of their children during the evacuation of an illegal outpost near Hebron in March 2003. Judge Yechskiel Barkali, who also convicted the women of breaching parental responsibility, wrote in his ruling "the presence of children at demonstrations makes their dispersion more difficult; the defendants took advantage of this and brought their babies in order to use the police's sensitivity when encountering babies."

Simhon Warns of Lethal Asbestos if Settler Homes Razed

By Ha'aretz

Environment Minister Shalom Simhon warned Monday that highly carcinogenic asbestos could pose severe health risks if Israel demolished settlers' homes prior to handing over evacuated Gaza and West Bank settlements to the Palestinian Authority. He said "We must fervently hope that the Palestinians agree to us leaving the houses intact," adding that damage to ground aquifers and to public health could be a consequence.

"We are speaking here of tons of asbestos, which is an extremely carcinogenic substance," Simhon told Israel Radio. "This is a substance which we cannot recycle, and which will many, many years to treat, and which is liable to cause real damage to citizens of Israel." The Palestinian Authority has said it is not interested in the settlers' villas and prefers to use the evacuated areas for high-density inhabitation. But it asked that Israel remove rubble from any demolition and not leave behind environmental pollution resulting from demolition.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres is pressing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to leave the buildings intact, and is trying to find an international third party to buy the properties. Simhon has warned of the potential ecological damage from demolition and Sharon has promised him a new discussion of the issue in the government.

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