A quick read.

A quick read from a lebanese newspaper, half an hour ago...

Israel releases Jewish extremists who plotted Al-Aqsa attack
Government proceeds with plans to extend West Bank barrier

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A group of at least three Jewish extremists planned to fire a missile into Islam's third holiest shrine in hopes of unleashing mayhem across the Middle East and halting Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank this summer, police said Monday.

The Cabinet and Parliament have repeatedly approved the pullout plan, driving opponents to desperate measures to stop it. Many are driven by messianic religious beliefs, rejecting the right of a temporal government to overturn their view of the West Bank and Gaza as land promised to the Jews by God.

According to a police statement, the suspects said they planned to commit suicide after firing an anti-tank missile at the holy site and throwing grenades at police who would try to arrest them.

Extremist Jews are organizing to stop the pullout at all cost, security officials warn.

The holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, is hotly disputed.

Muslims revere the site as the place were Mohammad ascended to heaven. To Jews, it's the location of the biblical Temples, destroyed 20 centuries ago.

Adnan Husseini, director of the Islamic Trust, which administers the mosque compound, warned that any harm to the site would shake the Middle East.

"The only one who will bear responsibility for such an explosion is the Israeli government and the Israeli police," he said.

The plot apparently didn't progress past the stage of discussion and authorities did not have enough evidence against the group to go beyond ordering house arrest for a short time before releasing them.

Israel's Justice Ministry said the suspects would not be indicted because there was no evidence they carried out any part of the plot.

But the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem, Ekremah Sabri, was outraged.

"Their release is a tell-tale sign of a kind of complicity. How can they be released when they are planning to attack the Al-Aqsa Mosque? There, there is complicity and a lack of seriousness," Sabri said.

In parallel, other opponents of the Gaza pullout showed Monday that even small numbers can tie down police,

blocking main highways with burning tires and their own bodies throughout Israel. More than 235 people were detained, police said.

Also Monday, Israeli officials said construction would begin this month on a section of the separation barrier that would effectively annex the largest West Bank settlement to Jewish Jerusalem and cut off the Arab section.

The new segment of the separation barrier would put the Maaleh Adumim settlement, with more than 30,000 residents, on the "Israeli" side. Israel says the barrier is necessary to keep suicide bombers out. Palestinians call it a land grab.

Israel is already building sections of the barrier elsewhere on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Once the barrier rings the entire city, it would cut off eastern Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their future capital, from its West Bank hinterland.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei denounced the plan, calling it "a time bomb in the way of the peace process."

Meanwhile, Japan pledged $100 million in aid to support the Palestinians after Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, saying it wanted a greater role in the Middle East peace process.

The promise came as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made his first Asian tour since succeeding the late Yasser Arafat. Abbas is preparing for July parliamentary elections in which the hard-line movement Hamas could fare well.

Abbas told Japan he wants to engage Hamas and bring the militants into the mainstream for the sake of stability ahead of Israel's pullout.

"Considering the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, I announce assistance totaling $100 million for now," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told a joint news conference after talks with Abbas.

Koizumi did not specify the form of the aid or whether it would still come if Israel changes its mind on withdrawing from the Gaza Strip - a possibility some in the Jewish state have brought up in the event of a Hamas victory.

"Hamas is not a threat to us," Abbas said of the election.

"I hope the Palestinian issue will be resolved politically as soon as possible, which will lead to the stability of the Middle East," he said.

- Agencies

A quick read from Ha'aretz (Israeli) Newspaper, half an hour ago

Four Israelis hurt in Gaza rocket attack; IDF wounds two Palestinians
By Amos Harel and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies

Four Israelis were slightly injured by an anti-tank rocket near Rafah in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.

In violence late Sunday, Israel Defense Forces soldiers shot and wounded two Palestinians near Ramallah. The military said they were throwing firebombs at an Israeli vehicle.

The four Israelis, employees of a company contracted by the Defense Ministry, were working on fencing along the Philadelphi Route when the rocket hit. They were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva suffering from bruising and ringing in their ears.


Two mortars were also fired at the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif on Sunday. There were no injuries.

In the West Bank, IDF troops arrested a 17-year-old Palestinian armed with a Molotov cocktail near Bethlehem.

The army will Monday transfer responsibility for part of the area around Jenin, in the northern West Bank, from the Judea and Samaria Division to Division 162, which is in charge of evacuating the four northern West Bank settlements slated for removal under the disengagement plan.

Two of the four settlements, Ganim and Kadim, are in the area for which responsibility is being transferred.

Just a small, late evening tune-up i enjoy sometimes.


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