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Rabbis' Legal Decision: No Hitchhiking

By IsraelNationalNews.com

A psak din (Jewish legal decision) forbidding Jews to hitchhike was handed down on Wednesday by rabbinical leaders in the wake of the recent spate of kidnappings by terrorist groups. "Someone who gets into a car driven by a stranger transgresses. Negligence in this area endangers the entire nation," said the psak. However, the organization Women in Green is calling on the residents of Judea and Samaria to continue to hitchhike. According to the organization, residents should not allow terrorist to disrupt the daily routine of Israeli civilians. An Israeli civilian, Eliyahu Asheri, was apparently abducted on Sunday while hitchhiking.


Israeli Air Force Buzz Syrian President Bashar Assad's Palace

By Ha'aretz & IsraelNationalNews.com

Four IAF F-16 fighter jets carried out a pre-dawn low-altitude flight Wednesday over the palace of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Mediterranean port city of Latakia in northwestern Syria.

Channel 2 TV reported that the aircraft caused sonic booms when passing over the palace. Assad is believed to have been staying in the palace at the time of the flyover.

State-run Syrian television said two Israeli planes flew near Syria's Mediterranean coast early Wednesday but did not mention Israel's announcement that the planes swooped low over Assad's summer residence. "The overflight by two Israeli planes near the Syrian shores is an aggressive act and a provocation," the television news said, quoting an unidentified Information Ministry official.


Anti-aircraft guns opened fire long after the aircrafts left Syrian airspace. However, Syria said "national air defenses opened fire in the direction of the planes, and they dispersed." The Syrians said its army successfully drove away the Israel Air force. The Israel Defense Forces went on high alert along the northern border in the wake of the IAF flight, Channel 10 TV reported Wednesday evening.

Senior government figures approved the move a few days ago in order to signal to the Syrian President that Israel in not oblivious to his sponsorship of Hamas' Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal. Military officials said Assad was targeted because of the "direct link" between Syria and Hamas.

Later on Wednesday Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Mashaal is a target for assassination in light of his direct involvement in anti-Israeli terror. Israel considers Mashaal to be directly responsible for the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.

In October 2003, IAF warplanes bombed an Islamic Jihad training base deep in Syria. It was the first attack on Syrian soil in more than two decades. The air strike followed a suicide bombing by Islamic Jihad that killed 19 Israelis in a restaurant.

Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Wednesday that Mashaal is a target for assassination for ordering the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. "He is definitely in our sights... he is a target," Ramon told Army Radio. "Khaled Mashaal, as someone who is overseeing, actually commanding the terror acts, is definitely a target." Mashaal is responsible for the Sunday attack on an IDF base, in which two soldiers were killed and a third kidnapped, Ramon said.

Israel launched a "limited" ground offensive into the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday in an effort to force the kidnappers to free the soldier.

In a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Wednesday morning, Ramon said that he was in no doubt that if it were Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who was orchestrating terrorist attacks from Damascus, the international community would take decisive action to put an end to it.

In response, Gonzales expressed his understanding of the issue, and promised to pass the message along. He mentioned President George Bush's statement, following the 9/11 terror attack in the United States, in which he said "Anyone who aides terror is a terrorist himself."

Ramon called on the international community to force Syria's Assad to expel Mashaal from Damascus, where he has operated freely for years.

In a bid to distance itself from Mashaal's activities, a Syrian Information Ministry official said, "If the goal of this [flight] is to blame the political leadership of Hamas for the abduction of the Israeli soldier, then Israel is making a big mistake that goes beyond logic."

Israel tried to kill Mashaal in a botched assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997. Two Mossad agents injected him with poison, but were caught. As Mashaal lay dying in a Jordanian hospital, King Hussein of Jordan forced Israel to provide the antidote in return for the release of the Mossad agents.

After the assassination attempt, Jordan's relationship with Hamas deteriorated and Mashaal was expelled to Qatar, where he lived before moving to Damascus.

On Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said Israel's military offensive in Gaza could jeopardize the life of the Israeli soldier held by Palestinians.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal, spoke hours after Israeli jets blasted a Gaza power station, knocking out electricity in most of the territory, and Israeli tanks and thousands of troops took up positions near the town of Rafah.

"Gaza is a small area," Abu Marzouk told AP in an interview. "Cleansing the area (by the Israeli army) would certainly affect the life of the prisoner soldier. He is among the resistance people."

Abu Marzouk said he believed the abductors want to keep the soldier alive to trade him for Palestinians detained by Israel. "For sure, he's in hands that will protect him and treat him well. Our morals and our religion dictate that we do this to every prisoner," he said.

Abu Marzouk said Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose country hosts him and Mashaal, is not involved in the prisoner issue. But in the Palestinian territories, an aide to President Mahmoud Abbas said both Abbas and Egyptian officials had called Assad to ask him to persuade Mashaal to free the soldier.

Abu Marzouk said he knew nothing of reports that a Hamas delegation, possibly led by Mashaal, would be going to Cairo soon.

Israeli Air Strikes Continue in Gaza

By VOA News, IsraelNationalNews.com & YnetNews.com

Israeli military forces have launched new air strikes on the southern Gaza Strip, in an operation to rescue a soldier kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists. The army said it targeted a weapons factory in the southern town of Khan Younis late Wednesday.

In the past day, Israeli troops and armor moved into southern Gaza as air strikes destroyed bridges and power plants. No casualties have been reported, but hundreds of thousands of Gazans are without power.

Israeli military forces said they are also preparing to launch an offensive into the northern Gaza Strip, opening a second front in the operation.

Palestinian officials have denounced the offensive, calling it "collective punishment" for the recent kidnapping of three Israeli citizens.

Israel says the Gaza offensive is a rescue operation. Israel blames an exiled Hamas leader living in Syria for ordering the soldier's kidnapping.

As tensions over the hostage-taking built, the Hamas-led Palestinian government proposed a prisoner swap to resolve the situation. Israel has not publicly responded to the offer.

The terrorist organization reportedly holding another kidnapped Israeli, Eliyahu Asheri, threatened that he would be "butchered in front of TV cameras" if Israel does not stop its operation in Gaza.

"I am announcing for the first time that the kidnapped Zionist Israel is searching for is the same settler who is being held by us. He is aged 18-and-a-half... and is a soldier in a pre-military academy," said Abu Abir, the spokesman for the Palestinian Resistance Committees, which claims to be holding Asheri.

The claim is being taken very seriously by security forces because the terrorist used Asheri's middle name, Pinchas, which had not been made public. The PRC also said that no more information about Asheri would be given without receiving something in return.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened to take "extreme action" if kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was not immediately released. "We have no intention to occupy Gaza or remain there. We have one purpose only, to return Gilad home. The policy of Israel always has been not to abandon soldiers."

Olmert repeated his refusal to negotiate for the return of Gilad. "I repeat. No negotiations will be conducted. Yesterday's operation is not the end of the story. We will continue to conduct military and anti-terrorism operations. No one involved in terrorism will have immunity."

Olmert placed responsibility for the developments in Gaza squarely on the head of the PA leadership. "The situation in which we find ourselves is the direct responsibility of the Hamas government and the leaders connected to it in Syria."

At a joint press conference held by armed organizations, the groups announced their joint preparations in order to repel the IDF operation. They said that Israeli side should expect surprised and unprecedented resistance, which will cause many casualties among IDF soldiers.

The IDF has not yet set its exact date for the entrance of forces. Unlike the smooth entrance into the Dahaniya area, where the army hardly saw any resistance by Palestinian gunmen – the IDF knows that the entrance into the north could be much more complex, and slow, due to the large number of terror cells in the area and explosive devices planted on the ground in order to harm forces.

The Air Force dropped leaflets in northern Gaza ahead of the operation, in which it called on residents to abide by IDF instructions and refrain from wondering around any area in which forces are operating in. The leaflets also warned the forces are working to free the kidnapped soldier, and added that anyone who interfered with the operations is exposing himself to danger.

An al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Member, Abu Ahmed, told Ynet that despite the threats being heard, local organizations are preparing for the IDF incursion. "In previous invasions the Israeli side absorbed heavy losses in armored personnel carriers and jeeps that blew up, but this time we promise that the losses on the Israeli side will be much larger. We are preparing suicide bombers, car bombs, tunnels, and booby trapped donkeys. Everything that the Israelis encounter could turn out to be a deathtrap," he said.

Abu Ahmed said that the Palestinian fighters would use massive amounts of rockets and mortars against the IDF forces that will advance towards them. "We will use tonight and in coming days in weapons and rockets that have not yet been operationally used. The Israelis won't know from where they are being it. Northern Gaza will turn into one large cemetery for the invaders. We also commit to carry on firing rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon during the Israeli operation."

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander refused to address reports that other senior figures in his organization succeeded in creating rockets that could contain chemical or biological agents. "I don't want to address what we have or don't have. The coming hours will do the talking," he said.

Abu Ahmed added that the IDF is trying to turn the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit into an embarrassment. "I promise that the mujahadeen (holy fighters) will do everything so that the result will be the opposite. Our main mission, other than repelling the invasion, is to capture as many Israeli soldiers as possible."

He said that every Palestinian organization would take part in the fight against the IDF, despite the recent tensions between Hamas and Fatah. "The IDF attack in Gaza and its intention to attack again only show us that the Palestinians must stop losing energy on internal and unnecessary divisions. We know that the enemy does not differentiate between an al-Aqsa activist and a Hamas activist, and therefore one of the good things that will grow from this battle is that all of the organizations will again be one body, after the unfortunate weeks we had of internal fighting."

White House Spokesman Tony Snow said Israel has the right to defend itself and the lives of its citizens. "In any actions the government of Israel may undertake, the United States urges that it ensures that innocent civilians are not harmed and also that it avoid the unnecessary destruction of property and infrastructure. All parties ought to take every measure to restore the security situation in Gaza."

Asked if Israeli air strikes on bridges and electrical power stations satisfy U.S. calls not to damage infrastructure, Snow said he would not comment further. Israeli military officials said the air strikes are aimed at intimidating terrorists and preventing them from moving the kidnapped soldier. Snow called on the Islamic terrorist group Hamas to release their captive and restore security through the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.


Missionaries Accosted in Mea She'arim

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Jerusalem scuffle: Christian missionaries in a religious neighborhood were accosted by hareidi-religious youths. "Missionary activity here is like waving a red flag at a bull," one resident said.

Details of the incident are sketchy. It began shortly after 10 a.m., when a group of tourists, apparently from Germany, walked into the religious neighborhood of Mea She'arim wearing orange shirts, emblazoned with the missionary slogan 'Your G-d is my god, Your people is my people." Some eyewitnesses reported seeing a missionary emblem on the back of the shirts.

A group of religious youths and men very quickly surrounded the group and started yelling at them to get out of the neighborhood. It was not clear whether the hareidim pushed them before or after an orange-shirted man kicked one of the hareidim. There were also conflicting reports as to whether the hareidim chased the Germans up the street, or whether another group of suspected missionaries was encountered nearby in a separate incident.

A spontaneous protest rally was held afterwards in Sabbath Square, between the traditional religious communities of Mea She'arim and Geulah, and two hareidim were reportedly arrested.

Arutz-7 has received anecdotal evidence of increased missionary activity in downtown Jerusalem. Jerusalem-area tour guide Yoni Berg told Arutz-7, "I'm in downtown fairly frequently, and I have seen them of late. Friends of mine who work there have also noted them. They wear shirts with the words 'Your G-d is my god, your people is my people', and they pass out pamphlets that have Jewish themes but are designed to lead the misinformed to believe in Jesus."

"Most of the people refuse to take the pamphlets," Berg said, "but unfortunately, I have seen several cases where the missionaries engage Jews in conversation."


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