August 15, 2002
Palestinian Leader in Israeli Court
Palestinian militia leader Marwan Barghouti was charged with murder Wednesday in a Tel Aviv court. The indictment sheet described the West Bank chief of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement as an "arch-terrorist whose hands are bloodied by dozens of terrorist actions."
After shouting the "uprising will be victorious" as he was led into court, Barghouti later said during the hearing that he was a peaceful man, "trying to do everything for peace between the two peoples. I believe the best solution is two states for two peoples." Barghouti was arrested in mid-April during an Israeli anti-terror operation in the West Bank. Meanwhile, A senior Hamas member was killed in an Israeli military operationwednesday near Nablus. Nasser Jerar helped recruit suicide bombers and had planned a major terror attack to bring down a high-rise building in Israel, Israeli officials said.
Cabinet Approves Security Fence
Israel's Security Cabinet on Wednesday approved part of the route of a planned fence separating Israel from the West Bank. At the recommendation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the route of the nearly 70-mile section will place several Jewish settlements including Elkana, Alfei Menashe and Shaked on the "Israel side" of the barrier. The section is expected to be completed within a year. Sharon promised to convene the Cabinet next week to discuss construction of a security barrier around Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported.
According to the report, Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor was the sole minister to vote against the barrier, saying the route should also have encompassed Jewish settlement enclaves that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak envisioned being annexed to Israel under a future political agreement with the Palestinians.
Fatah Focuses on West Bank and Gaza
The Fatah movement has decided to halt attacks inside Israel, a political leader of the group said Tuesday. West Bank Fatah leader Hussein Sheik said he expected the group's military wing, the Al-Aksa Brigade, to adopt the decision, despite a leaflet issued to the contrary, Israel Radio reported. Sheik said the Fatah leadership instead plans to focus its struggle in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, a Hamas leader said the organization would continue attacks inside Israel.
Meanwhile, the Hebrew University attack claimed its ninth victim, Revital Barashi, who died Monday night of head injuries. Barashi, 30, was a university employee.
Prague Synagogue Threatened by Flood
Volunteers from Prague's Jewish community are working frantically to erect barriers around key Jewish sites Tuesday as the city prepares for its worst flooding in more than a century. The Old-New Synagogue and the Jewish Town Hall are among buildings threatened as the Vltava River is expected to burst its banks and engulf parts of the Old Town. Torah scrolls and religious artifacts have been removed from synagogues and taken to secure sites.
Bush Blocks Portion of Aid to Israel
President Bush is blocking a portion of a spending bill that includes $200 million in aid to Israel. The $5.1 billion recently approved by Congress as part of a supplemental appropriations bill for combating terrorism also includes $50 million in aid for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Officials say the president's decision is unrelated to the Middle East spending, but because of concerns regarding congressional overspending.
Official: Arafat Assets Worth $1.3 Billion
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has assets estimated at $1.3 billion, according to the head of Israeli military intelligence. Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze'evi made the comment during an appearance before a Knesset committee. He also said Arafat is facing growing dissatisfaction among the Palestinian populace, but that the Palestinian leader is still the person who "pulls the strings" in the Palestinian Authority, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.
Statement: Don't Target Jews for Conversion
Jewish and Catholic officials issued a joint statement affirming that Jews should not be targeted for conversion. "While the Catholic Church regards the saving act of Christ as central to the process of human salvation for all, it also acknowledges that Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God," the statement says. "Jews are also called by God to prepare the world for God's kingdom."
The statement was issued by the National Council of Synagogues and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
Haifa Mayor Seeks Labor Leadership
Haifa's mayor announced he will seek the leadership of Israel's Labor Party. Amram Mitzna is a former general who supports dismantling some Jewish settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. Announcing his candidacy at a news conference Tuesday, Mitzna said he supports an immediate and unconditional resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians, regardless of who their leader is.
Weekend polls suggested that Mitzna would easily defeat the two other candidates to lead Labor, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and legislator Haim Ramon, in party primaries scheduled for Nov. 19.
In a bid to block Mitzna, Ben-Eliezer on Monday asked Ramon to drop out of the race and join him. Ramon refused. Israel's next national elections are scheduled for October 2003, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he may seek early elections.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.