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Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades Terror Group: `New Weapons'


Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, the terrorist organization associated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, boasted Sunday evening that it has succeeded in developing chemical and biological weapons. The terror group said it took three years to put the arsenal together, according to a report by the Palestinian Authority news agency, Ramtan. In addition, the terrorist organization said it had developed more than 20 different types of biological and chemical weapons.

Olmert: Response to Kidnapping will be Fierce

By Ha'aretz

In a special session Sunday night, the political-security cabinet unanimously agreed that the Israel Defense Forces would begin preparing for military steps aimed at securing the release of a soldier abducted in a pre-dawn attack that killed two other soldiers.

During the cabinet meeting, Ministers Shimon Peres, Eli Yishai and Meir Sheetrit urged the IDF to respond with restraint to the attack. However, Olmert responded, "The age of restraint has come to an end... We will respond forcefully, with an operation that will last more than a day or two."

The Palestinian terrorists attacked an IDF post near the Gaza border, firing an anti-tank missile at the tank in which they were located. Cpl. Gilad Shalit and another who was seriously wounded were also inside.

The ministers authorized Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to determine when a military operation would be launched. The cabinet also agreed to continue employing diplomatic efforts and seeking international pressure to convince Palestinian murderers to free the 19-year-old Shalit, who lives in Mitzpe Hila, near Carmiel.

Olmert said that Israel's current focus is on Shalit, and preventing terrorists from taking him out of the Gaza Strip. The prime minister also said that Israel would not release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit's freedom, as Israel has done in the past to secure the releases of kidnapped soldiers.

The two slain soldiers were named as Hanan Barak, 21, from Arad and Pavel Slutsker, 20, from Dimona.

The IDF's Head of Personnel Directorate, Maj. Gen Elazar Stern, told the Shalit family that the soldier was kidnapped "on his feet," and is known to be capable of walking.

Arab diplomatic sources involved in efforts to bring about the soldier's release report that Shalit is in good health, information which contradicts an earlier radio broadcast from Gaza. A radio announcement claimed to be made by a Popular Resistance Committees spokesman said that the abducted soldier sustained stomach wounds, but his condition was stable. Hanan Barak was laid to rest Sunday evening at the military cemetery in his home town.

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said Sunday afternoon that, as far the army was aware, the kidnapped soldier was alive. "Hamas is involved in this matter from head to foot, literally," Halutz told a news conference. "The soldier is alive, and therefore they bear responsibility for his fate," he said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to ask they urge Palestinian Authority Chair Mahmoud Abbas to secure Shalit's release. She also relayed the message that Israel considers the abduction a test to Abbas' leadership, and expects him to stay in Gaza to help resolve the crisis.

Shortly after the early morning attack, IDF tanks and troops entered Gaza near the site of the incident, an IDF position close to the Kerem Shalom crossing. Military sources said the incursion was part of a manhunt for the missing soldier.

The PA closed the Gaza-Egypt border, and residents of the Israeli communities of Kerem Shalom, Yuval, Avshalom and Yated, which are located close to the site of the attack, were asked to remain inside their homes. Gunfire could still be heard Sunday afternoon.

Later in the day, IDF and the Shin Bet security service undertook a series of measures in an effort to locate the abducted soldier through intelligence means. In addition, the IDF placed its special forces on alert, and the division dealing with captured and missing soldiers also became involved.

The eight or so terrorists involved in the attack reached the post through a tunnel dug under the border. "They [the terrorists) went into three cells. One attacked an armored personnel carrier. The APC was empty. Another group attacked a tank with grenades... causing two deaths and one serious injury. Another two attacked another position with gunfire," an IDF spokesman said. "Then they returned to Gaza... We have two dead, three wounded and a soldier that is missing."

The unidentified soldier was the first to be seized by Palestinians since 1994 when Cpl. Nachson Waxman, a 19-year-old Israeli-American, was abducted. At the time, Israeli commandos stormed the safe house where Waxman was held, but he died in the raid along with three of his kidnappers. Armed groups historically have used captured IDF soldiers, dead or alive, as a bargaining chip for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The surviving murderer-terrorists are believed to have fled back into Gaza after blowing a hole in the border fence. Witnesses said that in the aftermath of the gun battle, two IDF tanks backed by a helicopter crossed into an empty field in the Gaza Strip at the scene of the attack. The military said it was a "limited entry" to search the area.

Iz a-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' military wing, said it helped carry out the raid, which also involved the People's Resistance Committees (PRC), and a largely unknown group called the Army of Islam. It is still unclear who or what the Army of Islam is exactly. Palestinian security sources believe that the group identifies itself with Hamas, but takes a more extreme line.

Heavy IDF fire continued in the area hours after the initial attack, Army Radio reported. Following the attack, the IDF advised Palestinian security units to evacuate the Philadelphi Route along Gaza's southern border with Egypt in the Rafah area, saying Israeli military units were to enter.

The IDF General Staff convened for consultations after the attack, and IDF Chief Dan Halutz was expected to recommend that the government order a "severe response."

The armed groups said the operation was in response to the Israeli assassination this month of PRC leader Jamal Abu Samhadana and Israeli air strikes aimed at militants firing homemade Kassam rockets from Gaza.

Israeli air strikes in response to daily Kassam rocket attacks on Sderot and other areas of the western Negev have killed 20 Palestinians in the past two weeks, 14 of them civilians.

Hamas ended a 16-month-old truce with Israel on June 9 after seven members of the same Palestinian family were killed on a Gaza beach during a day of heavy Israeli shelling. Hamas has blamed Israel for those deaths. Israel has denied all responsibility and has ruled out shelling as the cause of the deaths.

"Our fighters infiltrated the Israeli army military location near so-called Kerem Shalom," said Abu Mujahid, a PRC spokesman. "They succeeded in blowing up several Israeli vehicles and clashed with Israeli soldiers. The battle is still going on. The number of fighters is bigger than any time. We have some martyrs who fell during the battle.

"It was a very complicated and well-studied operation. The details are going to shock the Zionists. There are many surprises that are going to be announced about planning and about the process and about the battle itself."

The IDF closed the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza for several days last week due to a security alert. The closure of the passage meant that the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was also shut, as the European monitors who used Kerem Shalom to access Rafah could not reach the border.

On Saturday, Abbas' Fatah party came to an agreement with Hamas officials that "resistance" operations would be limited to territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

In addition, Fatah's armed wing said it has developed biological, chemical weapons. `We say to Olmert, Peretz: Your threats of invasion do not frighten us. We will surprise you with new weapons you have not faced until now."

"With the help of Allah, we are pleased to say that we succeeded in developing over 20 different types of biological and chemical weapons, this after a three-year effort," the group said in a leaflet it has distributed. "We say to (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert and (Defense Minister Amir) Peretz: Your threats of invasion do not frighten us. We will surprise you with new weapons you have not faced until now. As soon as an IDF soldier sets foot on Gazan land, we will respond with a new weapon."

The organization said it would not hesitate to use the substances, adding that they can be placed on rockets similar to those fired at Israeli communities surrounding Gaza. "If Israel invades Gaza, we will declare open warfare without limits, as long as that is what the occupier wants," the Brigades said.

Jew-Bashing Russian Nationalist who Denied Jewish Origin is in Israel Searching for his Roots

By Ha'aretz

The deputy speaker of the Russian parliament, a Russian nationalist who has denied having Jewish roots and has reportedly made anti-Semitic comments on several occasions, is in Israel on a surprise visit to search for the grave of his father.

Israel has boycotted Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his nationalist party, but has granted him an entry permit because he is a member of parliament. Zhirinovsky said his father, Yitzhak Edelstein Wolf, is buried in Holon. It is not clear when his father reached Israel, but he may have moved here from Kazakhstan, via Poland, after World War II.

Zhirinovsky headed the nationalist party in the 1990s, when it secured 15 percent of the vote. However, in recent years the party's power has diminished, and it now cooperates with the ruling party of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Israeli Jews Return to Shepherding


Israel's Ministry of Agriculture, returning to the roots of biblical figures from Abraham to Moses and King David, has launched a shepherding course open to the public.

The six-week course aims at supplying farmers with additional skills, as well as providing a source of livelihood for Jews expelled from Gaza and agricultural workers formerly employed in the force-feeding of geese to produce foie gras until Israel's Supreme Court banned the practice.

The courses are offered at the Agriculture Ministry's headquarters in Beit Dagan. Forty people took part in the first course. "They were from all over Israel," said Yosef Karso, one of the instructors, "from the Galilee to the Arava."

Topics covered include care of the animals – milking, nourishment, treatment of disease and first aid. They also covered breeding and delivery of young. Even the management of a flock and maintenance of proper facilities and equipment were covered.

Following the theoretical aspects of the course, physical exercises using real flocks of sheep and goats took place with close coordination between students and instructors from the Sheep Division of the Guidance Department.

Israel is home to over 2,400 goat and sheep shepherds – Jewish, Arab and Bedouin. The Guidance Department of the Agriculture Ministry holds regular conferences and publishes material in Hebrew and Arabic to assist them.

According to Karso, shepherding has enjoyed a renaissance in Israel in recent years, due to the demand for cheeses made from sheep's milk.

All of the four hilltop communities currently threatened with destruction in the coming weeks are home to Jewish shepherds, many of whom chose the profession in an effort to return to the simplicity of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs, most of whom shared that profession.

Israeli Films on U.S. Television


Time Warner Cable has decided to make a special category for Israeli films. The network recently announced the imminent "Israeli film month," during which 900,000 cable subscribers would be able to view Israeli films by pay-per-view. Among the proffered films: "Yana's Friends," "Kippur," "Cup Final," "Now or Never" and more.

"Israeli films on American television are a significant accomplishment. After 20 years of hard work and more than 20 Israeli film festivals, we finally succeeded in getting to the point in which American television establishes a category especially for Israeli films," said producer Meir Fenigstein excitedly. Fenigstein has been managing Israeli film festivals in the US for years.

The Israeli consulate in New York, along with Fenigstein, made sure to send out email announcements about the Israeli film month. "We hope that the number of viewers will encourage Time Warner and perhaps other networks as well, to offer similar deals in the future," said Amir Ofek, the consul for public affairs at Israel's consulate general in New York.

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