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Iran Threatens "entire Zionist territory" with Retaliation


Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, promised Israel and the US "bone-breaking blows" in retaliation for any attack on Iran. Safavi told the Persian newspaper Ya Lessarat that the State of Israel and over 190,000 American troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan would be the most obvious targets of retaliation. If "the Zionist regime had a satanic thought and attacked Iran," Safavi said, "we would not leave one point safe in the entire Zionist territory."

Report: Police Thwart Terror Attack in Jerusalem

By Ha'aretz

Police thwarted a terror attack in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Channel Two reported after police called off a security alert in the capital. The police had set up roadblocks and conducted searches for several hours in northern Jerusalem and surrounding villages, after receiving information that a Palestinian intended to enter the city and carry out a terror attack.

Security forces said after the alert was called off Wednesday evening that they had arrested a Fatah activist at the Jat junction in the West Bank, near Nablus, on suspicion that he was planning to carry out a terror attack, Israel Radio reported. It was not immediately clear whether the arrest was connected to the Jerusalem alert.

Early Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces troops discovered a large explosives workshop near the West Bank city of Jenin. The bomb lab, which was run by Hamas, was hidden beneath a welder's shop in the village of Al-Yamun. IDF troops found a large supply of material used to make explosives, a Kassam rocket ready for use and three other rockets. The Hamas activists had apparently planned to fire the rockets at Israeli communities along the Green Line.

Abbas Sees New Era of Peace in Mideast

By Roger Wilkison (VOA-Brussels)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that a new era of peace and hope has been born in the Middle East and that it will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

The European Union, which has over the years spent more than any other donor to build up Palestinian infrastructure and institutions, has pledged another $325 million in funding this year for the Palestinian Authority. Some of that money will go to rebuilding schools, bridges, roads and other infrastructure that, in past years, have been targeted by Israel as part of its strategy of retaliation for Palestinian terrorist attacks.

Asked by reporters whether the EU funds would be wasted if Israel destroys the projects the money is financing, Abbas said the situation has now changed in the Middle East that there is a new era of peace and hope in the region, and he hoped that the projects in question would be maintained and not destroyed. And, Abbas added, it is time to be optimistic about the future.

Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, who heads the European Commission, the EU's executive body, said that there is now a good opportunity for peace in the region and it is important to put an end to violence there. But he acknowledged that the EU has been irked by Israeli attacks on EU-funded Palestinian infrastructure and has so informed the Israelis and their American backers.

"We are, of course, very disappointed, to put it mildly, to see that some concrete support that we have been giving with taxpayers' money to help the Palestinian people is destroyed," he said. "So it's important to put an end to violence, be it violence coming from Israel or violence coming from the terrorist movements."

Mr. Barroso said he believes Abbas is seriously trying to convince Palestinian groups to renounce violence and end terrorist attacks. He added that the EU stands fully behind the Palestinian leader and his efforts to undertake democratic reforms and make peace with the Jewish state.

Earlier, Abbas told EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana that he wants an independent Palestinian state as soon as possible. Solana responded "the sooner, the better," saying it now depends on Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a new date for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israeli Analysts Ponder Possible Syrian Withdrawal from Lebanon

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel is watching closely, as international pressure mounts on Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon. Israeli officials have long complained about what they see as the Syrian threat. They accuse Damascus of harboring and supporting Palestinian terrorist groups; of trying to amass weapons of mass destruction; and of supporting attacks against Israel by Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon. Israel has repeatedly pushed for international action against Syria. It is no wonder that it is now pleased to see others turning up the pressure.

Mass demonstrations in Beirut since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri turned into massive anti-Syrian protests and clearly took the Syrian leadership by surprise. The United States and France have jointly called on Syria to implement the United Nations Security Council resolution aimed at ending foreign interference in Lebanon.

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman told Israel Radio, even tougher action is needed. "Syria needs to be dealt with in a much more forceful way and sanctions are just one of them." The United States has also accused Damascus of assisting anti-American insurgents in Iraq. And, both Washington and Israel have said Syrian-based militants from Islamic Jihad were behind last week's suicide attack in Tel Aviv that killed five people and injured dozens more.

Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Israel Radio it is time for Syria to decide which path it wants to follow - to continue supporting terrorism or join in the fight against it. He said it is time for the international community to put more pressure on the Damascus government.

Some Israeli analysts see a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon as inevitable. Prof. Asher Susser, director of Tel Aviv University's Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told Israel Radio, such a withdrawal would have a definite impact on Hezbollah. "Hezbollah will pay the price because they will become the next target when the Syrian[s] leaves. It's not to say their role is finished. After all, they are a Lebanese party with many supporters. But, clearly, the room for maneuvering that they had before that allowed them to operate against Israel will be very narrow."

Arab Citizen Convicted of Driving Terrorists to Attack


An Arab citizen of Israel who drove two suicide-bombers to the scene of a deadly terror attack in 2003 was sentenced to 42 years in prison Wednesday. Sixty-year-old Muafak Airuk used his Israeli citizenship papers to transport two terrorists undetected from the Israeli Arab town of Umm el-Fahm to the site of the January 2003 attack on Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station. Twenty-three people were murdered in the deadly attack.

The terrorists paid Airuk $100 to drive them and informed him of what they intended to do upon arrival at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. Airuk drove them nonetheless. "He knew very well he was driving terrorists about to blow themselves up," the verdict said.

Despite the fact that Airuk agreed to drive the terrorists even after they told him of their intentions, the court concluded that his action stemmed from financial and not ideological reasons. "The defendant was willing to endanger the lives of both Jewish and Arab citizens because of greed," the judges ruled. The court also responded to the terror accomplice's displays of remorse in the courtroom. "In our opinion, the defendant is crying over his own fate and not over the tragedy of the victims and their families," they said.

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