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Egyptian Police Surround Sinai Villages, Hunt for Bombing Suspects

By VOA News

Egyptian security officials say police have surrounded two villages outside the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, hunting for suspects in Saturday's triple bombings that killed at least 88 people. The officials say police believe two suspected Pakistani nationals may be hiding in the villages in the Sinai Peninsula. Earlier Monday, Egyptian police distributed photographs of six Pakistani men who were in area during the attacks but have since disappeared after leaving their passports in a hotel. Police also say they have found the remains of what appears to be a Pakistani man at the Ghazala Gardens Hotel, which was left in ruins after a massive car-bomb explosion. A group that says it is linked to al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for the bombings in an Internet statement that has not been authenticated.

Extensive Army Exercise to Prepare for Expulsion


An extensive joint army/police exercise began Monday in the Tza'aleem army base in the Negev, in preparation for the expulsion from Gush Katif. Nearly 5,000 soldiers and police are taking part in the exercise, whose goal is to train them to take active part in the expulsion from Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron.

Next week, the exercise will continue with another 7,000 soldiers and police joining. In the first part of the exercise different scenarios will be practiced and the security forces will learn all the procedures and modes of action associated with the first circle of the evacuation forces. The second part of the exercise will include forces in additional circles of the expulsion action. Everyone will be equipped with special vests, in order to make identification possible.

Maj. Gen. commanding for the Southern Region, Dan Harel told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that the IDF may have to use extensive force to fight the terror rampant in the Gaza area. "If the current level of Palestinian violence will continue during the disengagement, we will enter the Palestinian area with large land forces."

He noted that there are currently about ten attempted terrorist attacks every day in the Gaza area. He also said that there are more than 2,000 Israelis who have illegally entered Gush Katif since its closure. They must be removed from the area in his opinion, and quickly. In addition, he would like to see the expulsion completed within three weeks. He revealed that it will begin in northern Gush Katif and will progress to southward.

Harel admitted that the IDF failed in its job to protect the residents and visitors in Gush Katif. He said this in connection to the terrorist murder of Rachel and Dov Kol, who were killed traveling near the Kissufim Checkpoint on Saturday night. On Sunday, residents from Gush Katif held a protest march in which they claimed that the army was ignoring their safety needs.

Sharon´s Friend to Build Casino in Gaza


Cyril Kern, whose donations to the Sharon family have been the subject of police investigation, is one of the financial partners in a casino-to-be-built in northern Gaza if Israel withdraws. Former Knesset member Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, the major player in the plans to build the casino, revealed to Arutz-7's Itzik Wolf that among his partners are a Saudi Arabian billionaire and Kern.

Flatto-Sharon said that he has already been in contact with the Palestinian Authority regarding his plans to build the casino on the lands of what is now Elei Sinai, one of the three Jewish communities in northern Gaza. Elei Sinai is the closest of the three to what will become, under Prime Minister Sharon's withdrawal plan, the PA-Israel border - only a couple of hundred meters away.

Cyril Kern is an old wartime buddy of Ariel Sharon who has long lived in South Africa. He and the Saudi businessman recently toured the area on which the casino/resort is to be built. Flatto-Sharon said he plans to conduct talks with Israel about ensuring that the homes of Elei Sinai remain standing, to be used to house future casino employees.

In 2003, the police began investigating a $1.5 million loan that Kern made to Sharon and/or his sons. The information was considered so damaging by a State Prosecution attorney that just three weeks before the national elections, she secretly faxed the story to a Ha'aretz reporter. She later explained that because she had a son of army age, she did not want Sharon to be re-elected as Prime Minister. The attorney was later forced to resign her position and pay a fine.

The Saudi billionaire arrived in Israel several months ago, at the behest of Labor MK Ephraim Sneh. He met at the time with senior officials in the Prime Minister's Bureau and discussed with them the possibility of his purchasing all the houses in Gush Katif for the price of $7 billion.

Flatto-Sharon said that the casino project would only begin after the disengagement. It will include a casino, a motel, and a five-star, 400-room hotel. The town's synagogue would remain standing for the benefit of the expected Israeli and Jewish gamblers.

Flatto-Sharon said that half of the expected profits, which he calculates at $1 million a day, "will be donated to the poor and underprivileged... for instance, the local municipal council workers who have not received salaries for several months."

Residents of Elei Sina responded to the news that their town is slated to become a casino. Arutz-7 spoke with Yamit-evictee Avi Farhan: Farhan said he's heard rumors of a casino before, but didn't know that Sharon's friend Cyril Kern was involved. "When this uprooting/expulsion plan was first mentioned by Sharon [in late 2003]," he told Arutz-7, "our three northern Gaza communities of Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nisanit were not involved at all. Only afterwards were we included in the plan - and this led to all sorts of rumors about casinos and the like. I said at the time that these were merely evil rumors, because it simply could not be that the government of Israel would take me and my neighbors out of our homes and lands in order to build a casino. It simply couldn't be; how low could Jews descend?"

Farhan added that there was no reason in the first place to include northern Gaza in the disengagement plan: "The area on which our three communities stand was never under Arab control. Even when the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control from 1949 to 1967, this area - from Dugit in the west until Nisanit in the east, and up to Nachal Shikmah in the north, including Netiv Haasarah (just north of the Gaza Strip) - was a buffer zone under UN control. We are located just 2.5 miles from one of Israel's largest power plants; this was a totally forested area, and we didn't uproot any Arabs in order to live here."

Farhan said, "I say to Flatto-Sharon and to Cyril Kern and to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: On the contrary, we're in favor of developing the area, and even with Palestinian cooperation. We can be the bridge for peace, for everyone's benefit. We are contiguous with Ashkelon in the north, and with our neighbors to the south [Arab residents of Beit Lahiya and nearby Arab cities], with whom we lived in peace for many years. I myself had a cooperative juncture - a fish restaurant - that I owned jointly with Arabs for almost 20 years, and it was a perfect example of cooperation and co-existence.

About five years ago, Muhammed Dahlan came to eat at the restaurant, and I told him that though the left-wing Israelis are afraid of him, we are not - and that if there is some good will, the Arabs and Jews together can turn the area from Ashkelon southwards to El Arish into something that could compete with the French Riviera. But if they want to do it without us, by expelling us - it won't work, because it will bring only hostility and tension and antagonism. We can find the way for Jews to live here, just like Arabs live in Galilee."

Farhan was evicted from the town of Yamit following the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979. He told Arutz-7 that he moved from Yamit to Elei Sinai at the behest of none other than Ariel Sharon. Farhan related that on his way to setting up a protest refugee camp in 1982, "Uri Bar-on, an aide of [then-Defense Minister] Arik Sharon, came to see me and said, 'Arik says that instead of protesting and starting a refugee camp, why don't you start a new community in the Erez area, in northern Gaza?' And so we did! We started the town of Elei Sinai [followed later by Dugit and Nisanit], at the behest of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon."

Four Scenarios After Expulsion/Withdrawal


An intelligence research center has drawn up four possibilities for "the day after": Democracy in the Palestinian Authority (PA), all-out war by terrorists, occasional terrorism, and anarchy.

The scenarios were drawn up by researchers at the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center headed by Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Reuven Erlich. The researchers noted they could not state which scenario would take place because of extreme instability in Gaza. The most optimistic possibility is a long period of calm during which the PA would try to re-organize and overcome terror. "The United States, The European Union and possibly Egypt will encourage [PA chairman] Abu Mazen to work with the PA institutions," according to the Intelligence Center. Under this scenario, the PA would try to democratize its government and establish a temporary Arab state with the cooperation of Gaza strongman Mohamed Dahlan.

The second option is all-out war between Israel and terrorists. This option envisions advanced Kassam rockets that have a range of five miles and have been stockpiled during the past few months when Israel has eased restrictions on movement of Arabs. Researchers said the rockets have been tested in launches off the Mediterranean Coast and easily can reach population centers in Ashkelon, where a huge electrical power station is located. The rockets also can reach Tel Aviv, Afula and Bet She'an from Samaria, and Jerusalem from both Judea and Samaria.

The third possibility is a continuation of today's occasional terrorist attacks but with more cooperation between the PA and terrorists. Researchers wrote that the security fence will help prevent suicide bombers from attacking and that terrorists are more likely to strike soldiers and Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The report did not estimate how Israel would react to such attacks.

The fourth and last scenario describes anarchy in the PA, which could include battles between the PA police forces and terrorist organizations while Israel remains on the sidelines. The report did not include the possibility that Israel and the PA would renew negotiations towards implementing the American road map plan. It noted that the Arabs are in a dilemma on cooperating with Israel because both sides have made territorial demands that contradict each other. Israel has vowed not to hand over to the PA all of Judea and Samaria, which the PA lists as a condition for peace.

Knesset to Discuss Two Bills That Would Simplify Divorce

By Ha'aretz

Two proposals aimed at simplifying divorce procedures will be submitted to the Knesset Wednesday. One of the proposed bills applies to spouses of different religions, while the other addresses women who are denied a religious divorce, and therefore, cannot remarry.

The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee submitted both proposals to the plenum after failing to bridge differences between the ultra-Orthodox parties and Labor and Shinui, which are supported by the Reform Movement. The ultra-Orthodox parties, backed by the Rabbinical Courts, support a proposal that would allow religious courts to rule on divorces even if one of the spouses has no religious denomination. Muslim religious courts in Israel can rule on divorces only when both spouses belong to the same denomination over which the court has jurisdiction.

Those objecting to the bill warned that the amendment would disrupt the status quo. They said it expanded the authority of the Rabbinical Courts, because there are 290,000 new immigrants devoid of religious denomination living in Israel. MKs Yuli Tamir (Labor), Zehava Galon (Meretz-Yahad) and Etti Livni and Reshef Chen (Shinui) drafted a proposal without this clause.

The ultra-Orthodox parties' proposal also grants the Rabbinical Courts authority to rule on divorce cases in which at least one spouse lives overseas. Today, they can rule on divorces only if both spouses live in Israel. The proposal was intended to facilitate the divorce of women who are denied a religious divorce, or whose spouses live abroad. The bill would limit the Rabbinical Courts' authority to religious divorces, while leaving other divorce issues to religious or civilian courts.

Moshe Dayan's Eye Patch For Sale on eBay for $75,000

By Ha'aretz

Several items of great Israeli historical interest have been trading on the online auction site eBay. The original eye patch worn by former defense minister and chief of staff Moshe Dayan has been offered for the sum of $75,000, while a hanukkiyah (multibranched candelabra) belonging to prime minister David Ben-Gurion and made from bullet cartridges is on sale for $12,500.

These particular items are being offered by Pasarel Israeli Art and Treasures of Netanya. Moti Sander, a partner at Pasarel, said that his company specializes in Judaica and jewelry, and that he had received Dayan's eye patch from the minister's personal bodyguard, who said that he had gotten it, together with a Smith & Wesson 38 revolver, minutes after the famed warrior died in 1981.Though Dayan's pistol appears on the eBay site, this is not for sale as the Web site forbids the trading of any arms. It is, however, for sale through Pasarel.

Ben-Gurion's hannukiyah was made for the prime minister in 1948 by workers of the Ayalon Institute, which manufactured bullets, and there is a personal inscription to the statesman on it. Sander said that he found the item in the Jaffa flea market, and that he had it authenticated by the very man who made it - now a resident in a retirement home in Tel Aviv.

Egyptian Film Mocks Peace with Israel


A quarter century after the Camp David Accord, a film released this week in Cairo shows that Egyptians' uneasiness over peace with Israel dies hard. Sharif Arafeh's "An Embassy in the Building" seeks to humorously depict the average Egyptian man's rejection of normalization. The plot centers around an Egyptian businessman and womanizer who returns home after getting rich in the Gulf to find, to his horror, that Israel has opened an embassy in his building.

Popular slapstick comedian Adel Imam is petrified when he discovers the Star of David-adorned flag floating above the balcony nearest to his flat overlooking the Nile, not unlike the actual building that houses the Israeli embassy in Cairo's Giza neighborhood -- a stone's throw from the University of Cairo, which is a stronghold of anti-Israeli sentiment.

But Imam is in for another surprise when he bumps into the Israeli ambassador, played by Lofti Labib, in the lift. "An actor must play every role, even that of the nasty guy," Labib told AFP. From then on, Iman's life turns into a living hell, as the prodigal son becomes an intruder in his own home. He can no longer take his conquests home without being subjected to body searches and questioning. The dazed and confused hero is preyed upon by Marxist intellectuals who overwhelm him with slogans and Islamist radicals who suggest he might want to have a go at being a suicide bomber.

But Imam displays good old common sense and draws much laughter from the audience by poking fun at leftist rhetoric and at the so-called martyr manufacturers. He rebels and becomes the street's living idol after he asks the judiciary to evict the embassy from his building. One night, Imam takes home a gorgeous young woman who turns out to be an Israeli spy. Mossad agents barge into his bedroom and snap pictures. Bamboozled, again, and now the victim of blackmail, he agrees to host a party for the Israeli ambassador.

Director Arafeh insists he didn't want the movie to give a particular answer to the Middle East conflict, but he steps out during the reception and television footage of a dead Palestinian child he got to know in the Gulf catches his eye, and the film ends with the hero leading a large protest against Israel's repressive policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Imam, described as the "Arab Charlie Chaplin" by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for which he works as a goodwill ambassador, diplomatically chose not to comment on whether the 1979 peace deal between Israel and Egypt should translate into warmer ties. By contrast, the Egyptian public and most critics seem to have understood the movie's not-so-hidden message: Israelis should stay home and if there's peace, then it should be cold.

Refuting local press reports, Israel's ambassador to Egypt said he did not intervene with local authorities to try and stop the movie from being broadcast. "We see this as a form of artistic expression and thus see no reason to comment on it," Yaakov Setti, the embassy's press adviser, told AFP. Asked whether he would be ready to meet the Israeli ambassador, Labib answered with a flat no. "I will wait until there is a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."

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