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Cable Car to the Kotel?

By Israel News Faxx Services

The Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem may soon become an off-ramp for Jerusalem's proposed cable car. Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday that there is preliminary approval by Jerusalem municipal to erect a cable-car network linking the Old City's Wall Plaza with a station on the far side of the Hinnom Valley, half a mile away. The project, estimated to cost $5 million to $8 million, aims to relieve congestion on the roads and walkways leading to Judaism's holiest shrine, according to Yedioth.

Security Forces Catch Second Suicide Bomber in 24 Hours

By Ha'aretz

For the second time in 24 hours, security forces have captured a Palestinian suicide bomber before he managed to carry out an attack inside Israel. Israel Defense Forces soldiers from the Duvdevan undercover unit arrested three members of the Fatah's military wing from Nablus during a predawn raid south of Ramallah on Wednesday.

The suicide bomber, accompanied by two facilitators, were nabbed while on their way to carry out a terror attack inside Israel. The bomber himself was arrested in El-Bireh and the two facilitators were arrested in the Al-Amari refugee camp. The three were apparently to have picked up an explosive belt further along their route. IDF troops are still searching for the explosives.

Intelligence figures said terror organizations, notably Islamic Jihad and Fatah cells, are making significant efforts to carry out terror attacks in Israel prior to the March 28 Knesset elections.

As of Wednesday morning, Israeli security forces had 13 active warnings of planned terror attacks ahead of general elections in Israel next week.

The incident came less than one day after a helicopter-directed police chase on the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway ended with the capture of a van transporting a would-be suicide bomber carrying explosives meant for an attack in the center of the country. The would-be bomber was an Islamic Jihad terrorist.

The van was stopped next to Kibbutz Sha'alabim, near Latrun, a rural area midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, police said. The 10 men inside the vehicle were taken for questioning, and it was later determined that the prospective bomber was among them.

The arrests capped a 15-minute high-speed chase, complete with wailing sirens, roaring helicopters and heavily armed elite police commandos racing on motorcycles. The terrorist is a resident of the Yamoun village in the West Bank and has ties to Islamic Jihad.

The bomb, which weighed between five and seven kilograms and contained high-quality explosives and shrapnel, was in a bag that could be worn as a backpack or carried by hand.

Security forces knew in advance the license plate number of the GMC van in which the 10 were riding, and had been told that there was a "very, very, very high probability" that it was tied to an imminent terror attempt, said Detective Shahar Hemo, one of the officers who stopped the vehicle. Security forces also knew the make, model, and color of the car, he said.

Chief inspector Ofer Dror, deputy commander of the Harel police station, told journalists about the incident. "As part of our response to the alert, we set up a checkpoint. A GMC vehicle pulled up at the Harel Bridge next to Mevasseret Tzion. We signaled the driver to stop but he refused. We understand there were minorities sitting in the car. He drove hastily through the checkpoint and we started chasing him. During the chase, the driver endangered the safely of other vehicles. I called for back-up forces and a helicopter," Dror said.

Traffic was backed up in many areas of central Israel for extended periods of time. A checkpoint set up the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway created a 400-meter-long traffic backup.

"The driver saw the traffic jam, drove onto the shoulder and drove another 200 meters. He stopped in front of a truck stopped on the shoulder. With additional forces, we advanced with weapons drawn and surrounded the vehicle," Dror said.

Chief Superintended Oz Eliasi, commander of the Beit Shemesh police station, said: "We surrounded the vehicle with handguns drawn and shouted to the driver to get out. The windows were tinted do that we only were able to see the driver. He was afraid to get out and this clarified the situation that there was a bomb in this particular vehicle. We made sure he [the driver] was lying on the ground and then spotted another head sticking out. We called on everyone to exit the vehicle and aimed our weapons at them. Sappers entered the vehicle and found the bomb inside a bag."

"We were traveling along the highway, on a beautiful spring day ... and suddenly we saw a helicopter swoop down and anti-terror forces speed by," Yonatan Danino, a witness, told Israel Radio. "Suddenly we saw a car with security forces surrounding it. They even came out of the bushes."

Nearby motorists began to panic when police removed the bomb from the car. "People started to run away from the cars," Danino said. "Police were shouting into megaphones, 'live bomb, live bomb,' and people were running in every direction." The bomb was safely detonated.

As traffic backed up, officers stripped and handcuffed the 10 suspects, forcing them to lay face-down on a roadside field. Police believe the terrorist did not detonate his bomb inside the van either because he didn't want to harm other passengers or out of fear of being shot before managing to blow it up.

An investigation has thus far revealed that the attack was likely intended for the center of the country rather than for Jerusalem.

Jerusalem District police commander Maj. Gen. Ilan Franco said the alert of this potential attack was received at 11 a.m., at the same time forces received another alert concerning a potential attack in the north of the city.

The van's driver, a resident of East Jerusalem, apparently operated a transport for illegal Palestinian workers seeking to enter Israel from the West Bank.

Bird Flu Reported in Gaza Strip

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Tests on dead chickens indicate that the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu or avian influenza has spread to the Gaza Strip. Israeli and Palestinian officials met Wednesday to discuss how to contain the spread of the deadly flu.

Israeli officials said initial tests on about 200 dead chickens found in the southern Gaza Strip showed the presence of the H5 protein in the dead animals - an indication of the presence of the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Acting Palestinian Health Minister Gassan Khatib said that initial tests indicate presence of the bird flu strain. He said Palestinian and Israeli health officials are working closely to try and contain its spread, adding international health authorities have also been contacted to help Palestinians control the spread of bird flu, also known as avian influenza.

Palestinian authorities said areas where the suspected bird flu has been found would be put under quarantine. Israeli officials are conducting tests on the dead animals because the Palestinian Authority does not have the technology or the facilities to do so.

Israel has killed nearly 500,000 infected turkeys and chickens since the bird flu virus was discovered in southern Israel last week.

Egyptian officials said on Tuesday there could be at least three human cases of bird flu in Egypt and that one person is believed to have died of the disease. About 100 people, mostly in Asia, have died after being infected with bird flu.

Avian flu may have spread to the center of Israel, where dead birds were discovered Wednesday at Moshav Neta'im, according to Israel Radio. Bird flu was also suspected of having spread to the Jordan Valley earlier in the day.

Mock Hamas Rally in Central Tel Aviv Sought to Shock Voters


A group of university students calling themselves the Faculty of Zionism have brought a mock-Hamas march to the heart of Tel Aviv in an effort to illustrate the dangers of further withdrawals.

Members organized a fake Hamas rally near the Dizengoff mall in the center of Tel Aviv Tuesday, in which students and activists dressed up in green Hamas T-shirts, held fake rifles and covered their faces in masks – marching while chanting "death to the Jews" at the top of their lungs. They held signs in Arabic and Hebrew, one of which read "You promised a dove - you gave us Hamas."

"We see that one of the main problems before the elections is that people are trying to make Hamas friendlier and more polite and they are not. Hamas is not a peace party," said Liron Zaidin, who heads the Faculty of Zionism, an off-shoot of the Orange Cell campus activist network, which handed out anti-disengagement orange ribbons and staged creative demonstrations in Tel Aviv and on campuses last summer. "People need to know what Hamas really is."

Last week, the Faculty of Zionism walked around the city handing out postcards with a view of Tel Aviv from Ramallah, with the foreboding message that if Israel withdraws from Judea and Samaria, Tel Aviv will not be immune to rocket attacks.

Zaidin and his fellow Hamas pretenders hoped that by shouting and marching Hamas' message in the street of Tel Aviv, passersby would remember Hamas' nature as a terrorist entity which advocates the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. Activists handed out the Hamas manifesto, which states clearly Hamas' objectives to destroy Israel, and a flyer which presented the pro-withdrawal Kadima party as a party which strengthens and rewards Hamas. The group did not promote any one particular party, although the flyer read: "Moving Right: Kadima is Left."

Kissinger Supports Territorial Exchanges in Israel


Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has expressed support for the concept of a territorial exchange between Israel and a neighboring Arab entity.

In an interview with the editor of the Council on Foreign Relations publications, Kissinger suggested that Israel withdraw from areas with large Arab populations as part of any final status agreement. He noted that such a withdrawal and territorial exchange would help Israel deal with its looming demographic problem.

The position that territories with large Arab populations, including in pre-1967 Israel, can be relinquished in exchange for Israeli sovereignty over Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria with large Jewish populations is being made central to the platform of Yisrael Beitenu. Avigdor Liberman is the party leader.

Poll: 68% of Jews Would Refuse to Live in Same Building as an Arab

By Ha'aretz

Sixty-eight percent of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same apartment building as an Israeli Arab, according to the results of an annual poll released Wednesday by the Center for the Struggle Against Racism.

The "Index of Racism Towards Arab Palestinian Citizens of the State of Israel," conducted by Geocartographia, revealed that 26 percent of Jews in Israel would agree to live with Arab neighbors in the same building.

Forty-six percent of Jews would refuse to allow an Arab to visit their home while 50 percent would welcome an Arab visitor. Forty-one percent of Jewish support the segregation of Jews and Arabs in places of recreation and 52 percent of such Jews would oppose such a move.

The inclination toward segregation rises as the income level of the poll respondent drops and also as the level of religious observance rises. Support for segregation between Jews and Arabs is also higher among Jews of Middle Eastern origin as opposed to those of European origin.

"Racism is becoming mainstream. When people talk about transfer or about Arabs as a demographic time-bomb, no one raises their voice against such statements. This is a worrisome phenomenon," Bachar Ouda, director of the Center for the Struggle Against Racism, said. The poll further revealed that 63 percent of Jewish Israelis agree with the statement, "Arabs are a security and demographic threat to the state." Thirty-one percent of Jews did not agree. Agreement with the statement was strongest among Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews and low-income earners.

Forty percent of Jews believe "the state needs to support the emigration of Arab citizens" and just 52 percent don't agree with the statement. Thirty-four percent also agreed with the statement that "Arab culture is inferior to Israeli culture." Fifty-seven percent did not agree with the statement.

Half of Israeli Jews express fear or discomfort when hearing people speaking Arabic. Eighteen percent of Jews said they feel hate when hearing Arabic speakers.

Responding to the report, Hadash Chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh said racism against Israeli Arabs "is a direct result of official racist and discriminatory policies" dictated by the government.

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