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Palestinian Gunmen Kidnap 2 Western Teachers

By VOA News

Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip abducted two Western teachers as they were driving to work Wednesday. Witnesses and unidentified security officials identified the teachers as the Dutch principal Hendrik Taatgen and his Australian deputy Brian Ambrosio of an American-run school in Beit Lahiya. Witnesses say gunmen forced the teachers out of their car, pushed them into another vehicle and drove away. Palestinians in the increasingly chaotic Gaza Strip have kidnapped foreigners on many occasions, in order to force authorities to meet their demands

Palestinian Vote Could Be Delayed

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Legislative elections in the Palestinian territories scheduled for January were thrown into confusion on Wednesday when Israeli officials said they would not allow Arabs living in East Jerusalem to vote. Palestinian officials responded by saying if East Jerusalem Arabs were stopped from voting the elections would be called off.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told a local Arab news agency Wednesday that he told President Bush that the only thing that would prevent PA legislative elections would be his death. That report was published at the same time that Abbas was talking with Egyptian authorities in a bid to postpone the elections scheduled for January 25.

Senior Israeli officials said Wednesday they would not allow Arabs living in East Jerusalem to vote in the election but the officials added a final decision has yet been taken on the matter.

Under the Oslo Peace Accords, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are not given the right to vote in Palestinian elections, but Israeli officials have made exceptions in the past - most notably in last January's Palestinian presidential election, when East Jerusalem residents were allowed to vote in Israeli post offices.

Raanan Gissen, a senior advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Israel has now changed its position because of the active participation of the Islamic terrorist group Hamas in January's vote.

"I do not see any good reason to make an exception this time to give a stage to, and provide and facilitate the victory to a terrorist organization that calls for destruction of the state of Israel. This is in its covenant of 1988," he said. "And it practices terrorist attacks against Israel continuously, but refuses to disarm, and once it wins is going to implement these policies."

Palestinian officials reacted with anger to the comments. Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Shaath was quoted in media reports, as saying if there is no voting in Jerusalem, "there will be no elections."

Erekat said the situation in the Palestinian territories could further deteriorate if Arab East Jerusalem residents are prevented from voting. "Well this is a very dangerous development. I believe if the Israelis go ahead with this and sabotage our elections they will be pushing Palestinians towards a Somalia-model, towards civil, towards internal strife. It would be a catastrophe and a disaster, politically. We believe elections and the ballot are the way to salvage our problems and chaos and lawlessness."

The Israeli statements on Wednesday follow growing international concerns over the participation of Hamas in January's vote.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that said U.S. support for the Palestinian Authority would be at risk if Hamas joins any future Palestinian government. The European Union has also threatened to cut off aid to Palestinians if Hamas wins in January. Hamas is responsible for many suicide bombings in Israel and the State Department has labeled the organization a terrorist group.

However, Hamas has showed increasing strength at the polls, winning an overwhelming victory in municipal elections in the West Bank last week, running on a campaign of ending corruption, government mismanagement and lawlessness in the Palestinian territories.

Mother Who Sent Sons on Suicide Missions, Becomes a Hamas Candidate


Arab mother Um Nidal sent three children on anti-Israel death missions. Now she is the first female candidate on the Hamas list in the upcoming Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections.

Um Nidal, also known as Mariam Farahat, became famous when she was filmed bidding her 17-year-old son Mohammed farewell to die through terror. She ordered him "not to return except as a shahid [martyr for Allah]" - and he followed through. Political observers in the PA are convinced that Hamas' fielding Um Nidal as a candidate will gain the terrorist group votes.

Palestinian Media Watch Directors Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook commented on Nidal's nomination, "It is striking, and indicative of the very nature of Palestinian society as one that accepts and values terror as a way of life, that a woman could be chosen to be a legislator solely by virtue of her celebration of her son's terrorism and death."

Marcus is quick to add that the phenomenon is not limited to extremists in the PA: "We are trying to point out that the adoration of mothers who send their sons to die is not a fringe sentiment in PA society. It is mainstream, promoted by the leaders and the academic infrastructure as well."

In the film that made Nidal famous, she advised her son on combat techniques before he murdered five Jewish students in the Gush Katif town of Atzmona on March 7, 2002.

The five students, who were taking part in a Torah lecture at the time at the local pre-military religious academy, heard explosions and gunfire; they turned off the lights and lay down on the floor. The terrorist then entered the lecture hall, spraying gunfire and throwing grenades at the unarmed students. In addition to the five murdered, 24 others were wounded, including three seriously.

In another interview filmed after the terrorist attack, Nidal explained that it was a mother's love for her son that motivated her to be joyous over his Shahada (martyr's) death. With the distribution of the two-filmed segments, Um Nidal instantly became a heroine and role model among the Arabs of the PA.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) released the video depicting Nidal sending her 17-year-old son to his death, as well as her interview after his attack. The PMW video starts with a short segment of her starring in a new 25-minute Hamas election video released this month.

Nidal's son Nidhal was eliminated by the IDF in 2003 while preparing for an attack against Israeli troops. Her third son Rawad was in a vehicle laden with Kassam rockets earlier this year when an Israel Air Force helicopter scored a direct missile hit on it, abruptly terminating his terrorist career. She has three more sons.

The president of Al-Quds University, Sari Nusseibeh, hailed as a moderate in the West, had strong words of praise for Nidal during an Al-Jazeera interview: "What comes to mind as I listen to sister Um Nidal is the verse 'Paradise is under the feet of the mothers'. Praise is due to this woman, and to every Palestinian mother..."

Nidal explained why she sent her son to die, "My son is not dearer than Islam. I have offered him as a gift and a sacrifice to Allah, may he be glorified, and to His true faith..." [Al-Jazeera, July 14, 2002]

Arab society in the PA responded to Um Nidal by dubbing her the "Al-Khansa of Palestine Al-Khansa is a heroic figure from Islamic history who is glorified and revered solely for celebrating the deaths of her four shahid (martyred) sons. The PA has underscored the importance of joyfully sacrificing sons for Allah in many different ways.

Other video clips released by PMW include this one in which a mother describes the suicide death of her two sons as a "wedding."

In another clip, a mother describes how she prayed during her pilgrimage to Mecca for her son to die as a shahid.

And a Palestinian Authority social welfare official explains how the governing bodies teach "daughters and granddaughters" to celebrate the death of sons as a wedding.

One mother describes how her son sought Shahada in order to marry the "Dark Eyed" - the 72 maidens (or virgins) of Paradise. She describes how she hoped her son would die because "I wanted the best for him," and because it would bring honor to her entire family.

A PA TV video clip, broadcast for years, directed mothers to send their sons to battle. The actress portraying a mother is shown expressing the traditional sound of joy after her son is killed. She then hands his gun to her next son and sends him into combat.

The mother of a murderer of three Israelis describers her joy upon hearing of her son's death, and recounts that he aspired to Shahada because, in the son's words, "72 Dark Eyed [Maidens] of Paradise are waiting for me.

Russia to Transport Natural Gas to Israel


A gas pipe from Russia to Turkey will be extended to reach Israel, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced

Putin made the announcement at a ceremony inaugurating the pipe's final stop in Turkey, according to Yedioth Ahronoth. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also attended the ceremony. Italy has also taken part in the project.

Gazprom, Russia's state gas company placed the pipe. Gazprom has attempted in the past to participate in tenders for natural gas exploration along Israel's coast, however they have proven unsuccessful.

Israeli Infrastructure Ministry Director-General Eli Ronen said that Israel welcomes the Russian-Turkish-Italian decision. "We hope that Israel will thus become a leading player in the Middle East's energy industry."

Meanwhile, an oil pipe will also be built from Russia to Jihan in southern Turkey, and will continue from there to Israel.

Russia currently transports oil to Israel through shipping containers. Approximately 90 percent of the crude oil purchased by Israel comes from former Soviet Union countries, but the extent of gas purchases from these countries is still minimal.

Russia is considered to be the second largest oil supplier in the world. In addition, more than one-third of the gas in Europe comes from Russia.

High Travel Cost Keeps Americans From Visiting Israel

By & Ha'aretz

Half of the majority of American Jews who have not visited Israel cited the high cost of travel as the main obstacle, according to a survey conducted by the American Jewish Congress. And the poll revealed that one-fifth of the 59 percent of American Jews who have not visited Israel are dissuaded because of security concerns, and 18 percent said it was due to "lack of interest."

The AJC said that 70 percent of the respondents are against the war in Iraq and 28 percent support it. But most people polled also are not pleased with how the United States is fighting the war against terror. The U.S. Jewish public is almost split on whether the U.S. should carry out a military strike against Iran if it continues to develop nuclear weapons (49 percent support such an operation while 46 percent said they would oppose it.

Asked about how close they felt to Israel, 36 percent responded "very close," while 41 percent chose "somewhat close." Only 5 percent defined themselves as "very distant," and 18 percent defined themselves as "somewhat distant."

Only 12 percent said they were more optimistic this year than last about the prospects for peace between Israel and the Arabs, while 19 percent were less optimistic. The majority, 59 percent, said their assessment is unchanged.

However, 67 percent said they support the way the current Israeli government is handling relations with the Palestinian Authority, compared to only 26 percent who are unhappy with the government's conduct in this area.

The survey also found that 56 percent of American Jews support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, while 38 percent are opposed to Palestinian statehood.

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