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Iranians Claim Domestic Jewish Support for Lebanese, PA Arabs


Iran's parliament Speaker has claimed that the country's Jewish community supports Palestinian Authority Arabs who have been hurt by IDF soldiers. "The readiness of our Jewish friends in Iran shows that it is important for them to support the oppressed Palestinians," said Gholam ali Haddad Adel.

The remarks came in the wake of an alleged statement by a Jewish hospital in the Iranian capital, Tehran, offering to accept Lebanese and PA civilians injured by IDF fire during the war. The veracity of the claim has not been substantiated.

IDF Soldiers Shoot 3 Hizbullah Terrorists in S. Lebanon


IDF soldiers opened fire on Hizbullah terrorists near the village of Shama in western Lebanon Monday evening. Media reports said three terrorists were killed. There were conflicting reports about the incident, with several media claiming that four IDF soldiers were also wounded in the clash.

An army spokesman denied that Israeli soldiers had been injured, and said that IDF troops had been the only ones to fire any shots, according to Reuters. "A force identified armed gunmen coming toward them in a threatening way," said the IDF spokesman. "The soldiers fired at them and identified three hits." Hizbullah denied that any of its men were killed.

President George W. Bush urged the United Nations in a White House news conference Monday to move quickly to deploy additional troops in the area, fearing a breakdown of the fragile ceasefire that was implemented one week ago.

The current U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is slated for expansion from its current 2,000 soldiers to 15,000 by October; however, the international body is having difficulty convincing countries who pledged additional troops to keep their promises.

Italy said Monday it would take the lead in the new multinational force and has promised to send up to 3,000 troops -- the largest contingent to date -- but has not been specific about when they would arrive and exactly how many would be sent.

An Italian official said Monday that two IDF soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah terrorists on the northern border are still alive but not in "great" condition.

The head of the Italian Senate Defense Committee, Sergio de Gregorio, told Reuters that Iran wants Italy to negotiate with Hizbullah for the release of the hostages.

De Gregorio said that Iranian national security director Ali Larijani promised he would personally ask Hizbullah to negotiate with Italy over the prisoners. Hizbullah is heavily supported by Iran and Syria. Italy is one of Iran's biggest trade customers. "Italy has excellent relations with Israel and good relations with Iran, as we are the top trade partner."

The two IDF reservists, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser have been held hostage by Hizbullah since their kidnap on July 12th, an incident that sparked a full-fledged war between Israel and Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

"It appears that they are in good condition, but not great," said de Gregorio. "They are alive." He did not give further details, other than to say that Larijani told him that "he will ask Hizbullah to negotiate only with the Italians."

A third soldier, IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted three weeks earlier by Hamas terrorists who attacked an IDF base at the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza and Egypt. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Last week, a ceasefire agreement was implemented without the return of the captives, despite prior assurances by U.S. officials as well as Israeli leaders that the war would not end until all hostages were returned safely.

Israeli Reservists Criticize Olmert Government's Handling of War

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

U.N. envoys held talks in Israel on Monday as pressure mounted on the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a state inquiry into the conduct of the month-long conflict in Lebanon.

Angry army reservists marched to a park near Olmert's office to demand an official inquiry into the conduct of government officials and senior military officers during the conflict in Lebanon.

Reservists like Yossi Avigor said they went into battle without enough equipment, or proper direction about what their mission was. He said senior officials responsible for the conduct of the war should resign.

"I do not think they should remain in their offices," he said. "When we came to the army we thought all the storages had everything. I did not have a vest. If I did not bring a vest from home I could not have gone to battle. I had a friend who got an army shirt on the third day. We think that everybody without exception should pay the price for this fault in the war."

A separate group of reserve parachutists have published a letter in a leading Israeli newspaper, saying indecision by their superiors, led to the cancellation of all of their missions. In their letter the reservists say their experience was typical of many soldiers and was one reason why Israel was unable to "deliver a knockout blow to Hizbullah," which one day before a ceasefire went into effect launched nearly 250 rockets against towns in northern Israel.

Speaking Monday on a tour of rocket-damaged buildings in the north, Olmert rejected the criticism, saying he would not slander the army or engage in self-flagellation.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz has said the government would conduct an inquiry, but the protesting reservists and their supporters in Israel's Knesset are calling for a state commission of inquiry like those that examined failures by Israel's commanders during wars in 1973 and 1982. In 1982, then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was forced to resign after being found indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians who were killed by Lebanese Christian militias allied with Israel.

Speculation Rages About Iran's Plans for August 22


August 22 could usher in an apocalyptic period in the Middle East thanks to some belligerent action on the part of the Iranian regime. Or maybe not.

As Tuesday approaches, the Internet is running hot with speculation about what Tuesday may bring, ranging from a new refusal by Iran to shut down its controversial uranium-enrichment activities to an attack -- even a nuclear attack -- against Israel.

The frenzy was prompted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announcement, more than a month ago, that his government would deliver its response on August 22 to an international carrot-and-stick proposal aimed at defusing the standoff over its nuclear activities.

The date was chosen by Tehran and had no obvious relevance in international diplomacy. The only formal deadline the international community is currently awaiting with regard to Iran is August 31 -- the date set by the U.N. Security Council for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment or face the possibility of sanctions.

Some commentators have downplayed the importance of August 22, arguing that the decision was simply one of convenience, akin to saying "we'll respond by the end of the month." August 22 marks the end of the Persian solar month of Mordad.

But others are less sanguine, noting that the date is significant in Islam, for several reasons. It coincides with the Islamic calendar date Rajab 28, the day Jerusalem fell to the Islamic warrior Saladin, in October 1187. Many Muslims regard Saladin's victory as a high point in Islamic history, and just weeks ago, Syrian fans of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah were likening him to the 12th century Kurdish hero.

On the night of August 21-22, Muslims believe Mohammed underwent his "night journey," a trip on a magical steed from Mecca via the "farthest mosque" -- later said to be al-Aqsa in Jerusalem -- and on to heaven and back.

The two-stage journey is known in Islam as the "isla and miraj," and tradition holds that a divine white light appeared over Jerusalem at the time. "The night of August 21 is a very, very important night in Shi'a Islam," according to Farid Ghadry, a Sunni Muslim and president of the exiled Reform Party of Syria, based in the U.S.

Ghadry claimed that Ahmadinejad would deliver his answer to the international community in the form of a "light in the sky" over the al-Aqsa mosque on the night of Aug. 21-22. He urged the world to take the date seriously, adding that "nothing happens without a reason in Iran."

Commenting on Ghadry's interpretation, Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch argued that an Iranian attack on Israel, conventional or nuclear, would "be consistent with Ahmadinejad oft-repeated denials of Israel's right to exist and recent predictions that its demise was at hand."

"Will he attempt to make good on these threats this year on the anniversary of the miraj, illuminating the night sky over Jerusalem?" Spencer wrote in Front Page magazine. "Will Western powers heed Farid Ghadry's words and move to stop Iran before it is too late?"

An article published by the pan-Arabic media organization al-Bawaba noted Ahmadinejad adherence to the Shi'ite belief in the 12th imam - also known as the "hidden" imam, Mahdi, who disappeared more than 1,000 years ago but has been miraculously kept alive, pending his emergence at a time of global chaos and war.

"Some believe that Imam Mahdi will be returning some time this August, also the time some military experts predict that Iran will be ready to construct its first nuclear weapon," it said. "Apparently, Ahmadinejad sees himself as an instrument to pave the way for the arrival of Imam Mahdi as well as an important successor to Saladin in terms of the liberation of Jerusalem."

Circulating widely online are the thoughts of the veteran Islamic scholar Prof. Bernard Lewis, who also refers to the belief in the return of the hidden imam. "Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced," he said in an article originally published Aug. 8 in the Wall Street Journal.

Pointing to the date of Mohammed's journey, Lewis wrote: "This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22," he said. "But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind."

"In the world of radical Islam past events add weight to any contemporary attack," political commentator Micah Halpern wrote in the Israel Insider magazine. "Attacks are programmed to resonate with history and reverberate with meaning beyond the present. Attacks are a tool used to remind the collective Muslim community to recall an historical episode."

Halpern argued that the Iranian president chose Aug. 22 because of its significance in Islamic history. "Ahmadinejad is invoking eschatology, the end of days and the time of 'the great light in the sky' as Muslims call it. Ahmadinejad is informing the Muslim world that, this year also, an event of significance will happen on that date. Ahmadinejad proclaims that the event will change their destiny."

The Israel intelligence website DEBKAfile reported that there is much speculation about what Iran may be planning for Tuesday. "Tehran may announce success in producing enriched uranium of a higher grade, meaning it is no more than six months away from a weapons-grade capability. While providing justification for U.N. Security Council sanctions, Tehran prefers to believe that this announcement will be its passport for admission to the world's nuclear club and its attendant privileges, including the right to enrich uranium independently."

Counterterrorism consultant Daveed Gartenstein-Ross mulled the possibility that Iran's Aug. 22 date may be linked in some way to recent unconfirmed reports suggesting that North Korea may be preparing for an underground nuclear weapons test. Writing at the Counterterrorism blog, he noted that the two rogue states have cooperated in the past in the nuclear field.

In an article on the question of the Aug. 22 date, investment analyst Larry Edelson said conditions looked ripe for a wider war in the Middle East. The Arab world was convinced Israel had come out of its month-long conflict with Hizbullah in Lebanon having "effectively lost its first war," he said on the Money and Markets website.

"Hizbullah is essentially an extension of Iran, supplied and financed by the country's Revolutionary Guard. End result: Iran is more emboldened than ever." Edelson predicted an increase in volatility and financial risk by the end of August.

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