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Google Officially Announces Israel Branch


Google has officially announced the opening of its branch in Israel. Local Google official Meir Brand told Yediot Ahronoth that the company would focus on advertisers, Israeli users and web site operators in order to help them interface with suitable Google services. "Google doesn't talk about its future plans," Brand said. "We mean to invest in our surfers, and a lot of surprises can be expected in the coming year. But over here we don't talk about products before they're launched. First launch, then talk."

Israel Warns of 'Evil Axis' World War

By &

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Gillerman, on Tuesday warned of a new "terror axis" between Iran, Syria and Hamas, which could kick start "the first world war of the 21st century."

Addressing the U.N. Security Council on a quarterly session to discuss international terrorism, Gillerman asked council members if their governments would agree to al-Qaeda or the Kurdish group PKK running in elections. "Imagine al-Qaeda or the PKK running in elections? A dictator's democracy is a dangerous false impression," Gillerman told the Council.

Gillerman warned of Hamas' venture in politics, saying, "the world is witnessing a new alliance between Iran, Syria and Hamas, which constitutes an axis of terror."

Gillerman evoked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad's January visit to Syria and the warm welcome in Tehran of Hamas leaders this week. Political leader Khaled Mash'aal led a Hamas delegation to Iran where he said Iran would play a more central role in Palestinian affairs after guarantees for financial backing to the Palestinian government from the Islamic Republic.

"This new terror axis poses a big threat to regional and world stability, and is a recipe for the worst ever plague. If we ignore this imminent threat, the axis of evil will be the seeds of the first world war of the 21st century," Gillerman said.

He called on the international community "to take seriously Syria, Hamas and Iran's joint effort and to act seriously to prevent Iran, an extremist and dangerous government that supports terror, from acquiring the knowledge to develop nuclear arms."

Gillerman said that the democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority couldn't cover up Hamas extreme ideology that calls for the destruction of Israel. He invited Council members to read Hamas' charter, a key provision of which calls for the murder of Jews and the annihilation of the Jewish state.

And in a related story, hundreds of students in Iran have declared their desire to become suicide bombers targeting US installation in Iraq should America or Britain attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

The students call themselves estashadioun, which means "those who seek martyrdom." They study videos of suicide bombings around the Middle East and hear lectures from former members of the Revolutionary Guard.

One of the group's founders, Muhammad Ali Samadi, claims to have trained 1,000 bombers already. "Their possible attacks will certainly not be a ground attack - but a missile attack. They should know that they have interests in some sensitive areas which can be targeted by our suicide attackers."

Mortar Attack on Jerusalem Thwarted, Fears of 'Gazafication'


Kassam rockets struck the Ashkelon power station as security forces announced the capture of a terror cell planning on firing mortar shells upon Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood.

Military censors have permitted the publication of the capture of a group of Fatah terrorists preparing to launch mortar shells at two densely populated Jewish neighborhoods in southern Jerusalem.

The terrorists had acquired eight military-grade mortar shells and a launcher, as well as IDF uniforms and were prepared to fire the shells, which have a one-mile range, from PA-controlled Beit Jala at Gilo and Har Homa.

Residents of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion insist that the IDF completely retake the entire region in order to prevent the 'Gazafication' of Gush Etzion and Jerusalem's southern neighborhoods. They say it is only a matter of time until Kassam rockets and mortars rain down on the region - especially if the plan to abandon everything behind the Partition Wall to the Palestinian Authority is implemented.

Monday afternoon, a Kassam rocket was fired from Gaza and struck deep inside the Ashkelon Industrial area that is home to the large Rotenberg Power Plant. The rocket landed near a desalination facility, damaging it and two vehicles. Workers in the industrial zone were told to enter bomb shelters. Another Kassam rocket landed in an open area. Earlier in the day, two other rockets failed to reach Israeli communities and landed inside Gaza.

Islamic Jihad has announced the development of a new rocket with a range of nearly 10 miles, which they also claim has more powerful explosives. Other terror groups also boast the increased quality and range of their rockets, thanks to unhindered development and production since Israel's retreat from Gaza last summer.

Rice to Hamas: Choose Terror or Politics

By Challiss McDonough (VOA-Cairo)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas to choose between terror and politics as it prepares to take control of the Palestinian government. Rice spoke to reporters in Cairo after talks with the Egyptian foreign minister.

She said the international community expects Hamas to meet certain conditions, including renouncing violence and recognizing Israel's right to exist. "If the new Palestinian government led by Hamas is going to be able to meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a peaceful life, for a better life, for a life in which there is economic development, it goes without saying that you cannot have one foot in the camp of terror and the other foot in the camp of politics. You have to renounce violence."

The secretary of state and her Egyptian counterpart spoke to reporters in Cairo not long after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas officially appointed Ismail Haniya of Hamas as prime minister and gave him five weeks to form a government. The State Department has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Both Rice and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit stressed the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. Aboul Gheit criticized the Israeli decision to cut off tax payments to the Palestinian authority once Hamas takes control.

He urged the United States to continue supporting the Palestinian Authority, and to give Hamas time to develop as a political party. "It is only a matter of time, and we are sure the Palestinians will recognize the requirements of the situation as they stand today, the Roadmap, the need for a political peaceful settlement amongst the Israelis and the Palestinians," Gheit said. "The need to see the two states, living side by side in secure and recognized boundaries for both."

Israel Says Peace Talks with Palestinians Possible

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's acting prime minister said peace talks with Palestinians are still possible, even though the Islamic militant group Hamas will run the Palestinian government.

Since Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections on January 25, Israeli officials have said they will have nothing to do with a Palestinian government run by Hamas. This week, Israel's cabinet voted to suspend the transfer of monthly tax and customs duties to the Palestinian Authority, raising fears that more than 100,000 Palestinian civil servants will not get paid next month and thereafter.

But Israeli officials have also stepped back from harsher punitive measures, such as stopping Palestinians from working in Israel, and stopping the shipment of Palestinian agricultural products into Israel. Now, Israel's acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he has not ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians.

Olmert told Israel TV that the chances of reaching a quick agreement with the Palestinians are smaller now that Hamas in charge in the Palestinian territories. But, he said hope has not disappeared. He said he plans to pursue a two-pronged strategy of battling Hamas and trying to reach a peace agreement.

Israel, the United States, Russia, and the European Union say that Hamas must recognize Israel and renounce violence if the group wants to gain international acceptance. Hamas has rejected those conditions.

Hamas leaders are engaged in a diplomatic offensive trying, so far unsuccessfully, to convince Arab states to step in and make up any budget shortfall that might result from the cutoff of aid from international donors, and the suspension of tax and customs duties from Israel.

Hamas leaders have also not been able to get other major Palestinian factions to join their new government, despite naming Ismail Haniyeh, a perceived moderate as prime minister. Hamas hardliner Mahmoud Zahar, the group's leader in the Gaza Strip said Hamas is united behind its prime minister.

Zahar said Hamas has told the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinians that Haniyeh now speaks for Hamas and the group is united behind him as prime minister.

Meanwhile, the man expected to be his main rival in upcoming Israel elections on March 28, Likud Party Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who is trailing in public opinion polls, harshly criticized Olmert.

Netanyahu said Olmert never should have allowed the Palestinian parliamentary elections to go forward. The Likud leader said that, if elected, he would pursue a policy the exact opposite of what he described as Olmert's policy of disengagement from territory now controlled by Israel.

Brutal Anti-Semitic Torture-and-Murder Enrages French Jewry

By Reuters

French Jewry is infuriated at a cruel, anti-Semitic murder that followed 24 days of torture.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the torture and killing of Ilan Halimi who was murdered on February 13. Sarkozy said police had linked some suspects to documents supporting Palestinian and archconservative Islamic causes.

Sarkozy's statement came after days of confusion over the case and confirmed the local Jewish community's fears regarding the Halimi's death. Police had previously said the killing was motivated by greed for a ransom and not any religious motive.

Sarkozy called the killers barbaric criminals and urged people not to draw racist conclusions - a clear warning against blaming France's Muslim community, which was widely suspected in a wave of anti-Jewish attacks several years ago.

"The truth is that these crooks acted primarily for sordid and vile motives - to get money - but they were convinced that 'the Jews have money' and ... his family and community would provide it," Sarkozy told parliament. "That's called anti-Semitism by conflation," adding four of six other people the gang tried to kidnap were Jewish.

Halimi, 23, was found naked, tortured and burned south of Paris after being held for three weeks by a gang demanding a large ransom. He died of his injuries shortly afterwards. A magistrate said on Monday that seven suspects were being investigated for "murder linked to the victim's religion."

France has Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish minorities, but the former numbers about five million and the latter only 600,000. Many Arabs and Jews are immigrants and live uneasily side-by-side in poor neighborhoods.

Speaking a day after Jewish community leader Roger Cukierman urged the government to "provide the whole truth and nothing but the truth", Sarkozy said he had to release the details he had but did not want them to arouse hate or fear. "What we don't need now, in addition to this barbarity, is misunderstanding, intolerance and racism."

Two French police officers flew to Ivory Coast on Tuesday to track down Youssef Fofana, suspected head of the gang who apparently fled back to his native country after the murder. Police said Fofana called himself the "brain of the barbarians" and that his gang used young women to lure potential targets to locations where they could be kidnapped. The woman who lured Halimi has given herself up to police.

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