Newsletter : 4fax0903.txt
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Israel Steps Up Rhetoric Against Syria
By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel is stepping up its rhetoric against neighboring Syria, with senior officials
publicly blaming Damascus for Tuesday's suicide bus bombings in the southern Israeli city
of Be'er Sheva. Syria denies the accusations and says Israel is heightening tensions in
Shortly after the Be'er Sheva attack, unidentified security sources were being quoted
as pointing an accusing finger at Syria. But, now senior Israeli officials have come out
publicly accusing Damascus of involvement. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says the order for
the Be'er Sheva attacks came directly from the Damascus headquarters of the Islamic
militant group, Hamas.
Other senior officials are also saying this latest provocation cannot be ignored.
Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim says Israel has to consider military action. Boim says
Israel needs to draw what he calls a red line that cannot be crossed. But he says that any
military action should be limited in order to not ignite a larger conflict.
In Damascus, the official Syrian news agency quotes Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara as
saying the Israeli accusations lack credibility and any sort of evidence. He adds they
will only heighten tensions in the region. And, in a statement from Damascus, Hamas said
the planning and execution of suicide attacks was carried out by local commanders in the
Palestinian territories, not in the group's political office in Syria. Hamas political
leader Khaled Mashaal is based in Damascus.
Israel has long accused Syria of harboring and supporting groups such as Hamas, Islamic
Jihad, and Hizbullah, all of which have been behind numerous attacks against Israel over
the years. All three groups are also listed as terrorist organizations by the State
Syria denies it supports terrorism. Damascus says it has given refuge to some
Palestinian militants who have not been allowed by Israel to return to their homes in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip. Officials insist Syria offers moral support but no military
training. Last October, Israel bombed what it said was a terrorist training camp inside
Syria, following a suicide bomb attack on a restaurant in the port city of Haifa.
Negev Leaders: Finish Southern Fence Quickly
Negev community leaders urged Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz on Thursday to finish constructing the southern section of the separation fence as
soon as possible, saying the government had previously promised it would accelerate the
process, Army Radio reported.
A dispute between Sharon and the defense establishment and Justice Ministry is delaying
approval of the route of the separation fence in the region of the southern Hebron Hills,
through which the terrorists who carried out Tuesday's Be'er Sheva suicide attacks
The section must be finished quickly so as to prevent the next disaster, wrote Shmuel
Rifman, head of the Ramat Hanegev regional council and chairman of the Negev Development
Authority of Israel, in his request to the government. Rifman attached to his request an
announcement by an adviser to the prime minister, who had said that Sharon ordered the
section's hasty construction.
The announcement said Sharon had instructed officials dealing with the fence to
accelerate the planning and construction of the southern section of the fence, in
accordance with any relevant legal procedures, according to Army Radio. The original route
of the fence that was approved by the government last year positioned the barrier north of
the Susia, Maon and Carmel settlements, leaving large expanses of land beyond the Green
Line on the "Israeli" side of the fence.
Following the High Court of Justice ruling from June, when the government was
instructed to take the Palestinian residents into consideration, a new line was planned
for the fence, further to the south. The new route leaves only the settlements of
Eshkolot, Livne and Metzudat Yehuda - all three are adjacent to the Green Line - inside
the boundaries of the fence.
On Sunday, Sharon took a helicopter tour over the seam line expanse in the southern
Hebron Hills area and was shown the amended fence route proposed by the defense
establishment. Sharon rejected the proposal and demanded changes. He is expected to hold a
meeting on the fence's southern route next week.
Palestinian Authority Condemns Bombings in English; Praises Them in Arabic
While official Palestinian Authority statements condemned the double suicide attack in
Be'er Sheva, the PA's Arabic media were telling a different story. English and Arabic
reports in the PA were also at odds with each other.
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a watchdog organization overseeing the PA's media,
reports that the official PA daily paper granted the status of "Shahid" - Holy Martyr - to
the two suicide terrorists who murdered 16 Israelis in Be'er Sheva on Tuesday. This
definition of the murderers as Shahids in the opening sentence of the top story of the
PA's official Al Hayat al-Jadida newspaper stood in sharp contrast to the English-language
"condemnations" issued shortly after the attack by PA official to international media.
Reaching the status of Holy Martyr "is a supreme achievement in Islamic teaching,"
reports PMW, "granting the Shahid the greatest rewards in the afterlife and a place of
honor in Paradise near Mohammed's Comrades and the Prophets."
PMW's Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook also noted a sharp contrast between the English
and Arabic news broadcasts on PA TV. The three Arabic language news reports following the
Tuesday attack, each 20-30 minutes long, made no mention whatsoever of the mass murder of
16 Jews. The Arafat-controlled English language newscasts, on the other hand, which target
foreign audiences and media, told of the attack and the PA condemnations.
Moreover, wrote PMW's Marcus and Crook, while the PA officials condemned the attack,
the reason they gave "was that it harmed PA 'national interests' - and not that it was
morally wrong." The PA statement explained, "the Palestinian national interests require
not to harm civilians in order not to give Israel the pretexts to continue its military
aggression against the Palestinian people and their holy sites."
Wednesday morning's PA TV Arabic news finally reported the attack, together with the
condemnations explaining that it was "not in national interest to harm civilians in order
not to give Israel the pretexts to continue its military aggression against the
PMW notes that PA policy has long been not to condemn Palestinian suicide terror on
moral grounds but only on grounds of "national interest," and never to condemn the
terrorists, who are all granted Shahid status. For example, an open letter by Hannan
Ashrawi, Sari Nusseibeh, and other leading PA figures in June 2002 calling for a halt to
suicide terror against civilians stated, "We believe that these operations do not advance
the fulfillment of our endeavor, for freedom and independence... Military actions are
defined positively or negatively not by its own criteria [i.e. the success of the attack
itself] but rather according to the achievement of political goals."
German FM Says He Will Try to Move Rosh Hashanah Soccer Match
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he would work to change the date of a
soccer game between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bayern Munich of Germany that falls on Rosh
Hashanah. The European Champions League game is scheduled for Sept. 15, the start of the
Jewish New Year.
European soccer governing body UEFA said last week that Maccabi Tel Aviv missed a
deadline for filing a request for a change. Maccabi said it had informed UEFA on June 9
that it wanted a different time for the game.
A game played in Israel on Rosh Hashanah could be expected to draw a relatively sparse
crowd, as Israelis traditionally observe the holiday with a festive family meal. This
would be a big financial blow to Maccabi, which is counting on large attendance to
generate much-needed revenue.
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