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>Israel Faxx
>JN June 26, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 109

Verdict Expected This Week for Iran 13

By IsraelWire

Iranian officials announced that a verdict in the trial of the Iran 13 -- the Jews falsely accused of "spying for Israel" -- is expected July 1. The Jews face prison sentences, or possibly death.

Assad's Nomination Assured

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)

Syria's parliament is set to nominate Bashar al-Assad as its presidential candidate and fix the date for a referendum that will clinch his presidency.

The young eye doctor, known simply as Dr. Bashar in Syria, has been moving quickly toward assuming the reins of power since his father, President Hafez al-Assad, died June 10. Within days of the death, Syria's constitution was amended to lower the age of eligibility to allow the 34-year-old to become president.

The military then elevated Dr. Bashar to commander of the armed forces, a post previously held by his father. He was later nominated to head the Baath ruling party and endorsed as their presidential candidate.

Already, the young Assad has assumed some presidential duties, meeting with foreign dignitaries, such as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Dr. Bashar will be the only candidate in the referendum. The only unknown element will be the percentage of his victory. President Hafez al-Assad regularly received more than 99-percent of the vote. Bashar al-Assad's inauguration is expected to take place shortly after the official results of the referendum are published.

The younger Assad will face several challenges on both domestic and foreign policy. In a speech to the Baath party congress, he listed economic reforms as a top priority. But he has also promised to resume peace talks with Israel, based on the unwavering Syrian position that demands the complete return of the strategic Golan Heights that Israel seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Israeli Arabs Call SLA Fighters "Traitors"

By Jenny Badner (VOA-Israel-Lebanon Border)

Debel is a village in southern Lebanon just minutes away from northern Israel. Nearly all of Debel's 2,000 residents have fled and are refugees waiting in Israel for their new lives to begin. They were members of the mostly Maronite-Christian South Lebanon Army (SLA). Their lives were permanently altered when Israel withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon last month.

More than 1,000 Maronite-Christian residents of Debel in south Lebanon are gathered together near the Israeli-Lebanese border for a memorial service. They are remembering Salim Sakal, a 19-year-old soldier killed just weeks before the end of the fighting in southern Lebanon.

Bussed to the service from the holiday resorts, collective farms and army bases housing the Lebanese refugees in northern Israel, many of the residents of Debil are being reunited for the first time since they fled to Israel May 24.

That is when Israel abruptly ended its more than 20-year occupation of a strip of land in southern Lebanon. When Israel withdrew its forces, it left its predominantly Christian allies in Lebanon, the South Lebanon Army, with two choices. They could remain unprotected in their villages, or flee south to become refugees in Israel.

A few-hundred members of the SLA surrendered to Lebanese forces or to the Hizbullah, the Iranian-backed Muslim terrorists, which fought a war of attrition against Israel. About 6,000 Lebanese left their possessions behind and crossed the border to Israel.

While most Jewish Israelis see the SLA as friends, if not heroes, who helped protect northern Israel from guerrillas, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs view the refugees differently.

Kamel Owaie, 45, is a taxi driver from an Arab village near the holiday resort where the refugees are staying. Owaie says the Arabs in Israel will never live together with the members of the SLA.

"We think a big part of them are traitors. They betrayed their country, and because of that we do not want to receive them in our villages or in any place. It was not for the Lebanese to join the Israeli army. The best thing for them is to return to Lebanon."

Members of the South Lebanon Army were paid for their work with the Israeli Defense Forces. That is why many Arabs in Israel dismiss them as little more than collaborators.

Health Ministry: No Need for Concern Over Meningitis Death

By IsraelWire

Health Ministry officials Saturday night emphasized that all necessary steps were being taken to ensure there is no outbreak of meningitis following the death of Joseph Ferraro of Rochester, N.Y., shortly after he landed in the US on El Al.

Ferraro, 20, landed in Newark International Airport in New Jersey, and died a short time later on Friday evening of bacterial meningitis. Ferraro, who was complaining of head pain prior to the flight, arrived from Tel Aviv on flight 017 from Tel Aviv. From the airport, he was taken directly to Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark where he died several hours later.

US health officials and their Israeli counterparts have begun contacting persons on board the flight as well as persons who may have had close contact with the deceased prior to his leaving Israel. El Al Israel Airlines reports the flight to Newark carried 414 passengers and a crew of 17.

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