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Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian Gunman in West Bank Clash

By VOA News

The Israeli army said Israeli troops have shot dead a Palestinian gunman during a clash in the northern West Bank. Army officials say Israeli soldiers were conducting a routine patrol early Sunday north of the city of Jenin when they spotted three armed men. The soldiers opened fire on the group, killing one of them. There were no Israeli casualties. Shooting incidents in the northern West Bank have increased in the past two weeks after Israeli troops began raids in the area. Israel completed a withdrawal from the Gaza Strips and four Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank last month.

Arab Citizens Convicted of Plot to Blow Up Azrieli Towers


Three Arab citizens of the State of Israel were convicted Sunday of plotting to blow up the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv, and a plot to plant a bomb on railroad tracks near Netanya. The Tel Aviv District Court also convicted the Arabs of attempting to provide assistance to a foreign enemy during time of war. One of the Arabs was convicted of contacting a foreign enemy agent.

The three Arabs, Dubian Natzirat, 27; Amir Zivati, 20; and Mugahad Dukan, 19, all from Taibe, admitted their guilt and were convicted under a plea bargain arrangement.

Dukan, the prime suspect in the case, was originally from the Arab camp of Balata, just south of Shechem, the largest Arab-populated city in Judea and Samaria. Dukan received his Israeli citizenship when his parents attained permission to legally immigrate to Israel a number of years ago. Although the family moved to Taibe, another large Arab-populated city within Israel's pre-1967 borders, Dukan never lost touch with his previous residence.

Balata has been a breeding ground for Arab terrorists over the past four decades. A few months ago, a wanted terrorist from Balata made contact with Dukan and asked him to help plant a bomb inside Israel. Dukan agreed. Not wanting to waste Dukan's efforts on only one bomb, another wanted terrorist from Judea and Samaria, Ahmed Casey, asked Dukan to help plant three bombs, one of them on the railroad tracks near Netanya. Casey's first idea was to plant the bomb in one of the cars, but Dukan objected to the idea of becoming a suicide bomber and suggested blowing up the train tracks instead.

A few days later the two met, and Casey explained to Dukan how to attach the bomb to the tracks and set it off. Casey told Dukan he would hand him the bombs at an army roadblock, located on the pre-1967 line, after hiding them in a sack of clothing. Dukan met his co-conspirators back in his new residence of Taibe, about 30 minutes drive from the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv. Ironically, it was Zivati, a life-long Israeli citizen and Taibe resident, that suggested that Dukan use the bombs to blow up the Azrieli towers in Tel Aviv.

The Azrieli Towers, among the tallest buildings in the Middle East, are modern Tel Aviv landmarks. The three modern steel and glass buildings, built around an up-scale shopping mall, are as much icons of the Tel Aviv skyline, as the Twin Towers were in New York.

Natzirat, another co-conspirator from Taibe, agreed to take part in the plan, but only if Dukan agreed to let him have one of the bombs for his own, private terrorist mischief against Israel. Dukan agreed and decided to let Natzirat take one of the bombs into Taibe via tractor. Impatiently waiting for an OK to get the bombs, Dukan called Casey on Oct. 5, 2004. Casey said the bombs would be ready on the 10th. Dukan was arrested on the 9th and the security forces stopped the attack in its tracks.

The prosecution will ask the court to sentence Dukat to 15 years in jail, and eight years for both Natzirat and Zivati.

Israel Extends Helping Hand to Pakistani Earthquake Victims


Israel sent a message to Pakistan through official diplomatic channels with an offer to send rescue teams after a massive earthquake that hit Kashmir on Saturday, said Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. The earthquake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, has so far claimed more than 20,000 lives, not including those in nearby Afghanistan and India.

Israel and Pakistan do not have official diplomatic relations. A first-time meeting was held last month between the two countries' foreign ministers. Foreign Ministry officials are reporting that at present, there do not appear to be any Israelis among the over 20,000 dead in the earthquake which struck Pakistan.

Israel and Pakistan - the second-largest Muslim country - have no official relations, but the two countries' foreign ministers met last month for the first time. "We've expressed a desire to help, and we're hopeful that it will be possible to help," said Mark Regev, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Israel - which has sent rescue teams to Turkey and Mexico to assist in evacuation efforts after earthquakes struck those countries - sent a message to Pakistan through "official channels" and the United Nations, said a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Pakistan has yet to respond to the offer. But Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said later Sunday that there has been no response from Pakistan or India to the offer of assistance.

No Israeli travelers were injured in the earthquake, the Israeli consulate in Delhi reported Sunday morning. Meanwhile, rescuers struggled to dig victims out who were still buried beneath the rubble of destroyed apartment buildings, schools and mud-brick homes.

IDF: Hamas Uninterested in Truce


IDF Intelligence Chief Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash told the Cabinet on Sunday that it is in the interest of the Palestinian terror organizations to wage terror attacks against Israel. "Terror organizations are constantly trying to plan attacks, including kidnappings. Their aim is to hamper any move for normalization with Israel and therefore they want children in Gaza to starve and fight, which will strengthen them. In this sense they want to carry out attacks," Farkash said.

Commenting on the latest spate of violence between the Palestinian Authority and the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, Farkash said that "Hamas is losing points and the PA has an interest in preserving the truce. The situation in Gaza has changed and they (the Palestinians) are more aware of this fact." He added that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas "can become stronger if he regains his composure."

As for the series of bloody confrontations between PA security officers and Hamas gunmen following Abbas' announcement of a ban on carrying arms in public, the head of the IDF's intelligence unit said that "the crisis between the sides has been temporarily calmed down." Abbas met with Hamas and Fatah representatives in Gaza on Saturday in an effort to ease the tensions between the two sides that exchanged blames as to who is responsible for the chaotic situation in the tiny stretch of land.

Mystics to Madonna: Lay Off Our Sage

By Reuters

Word that Madonna's upcoming album includes a paean to a 16th-century Jewish mystic has prompted the rabbis who guard his legacy to accuse the pop idol of sacrilege and hint at divine punishment.

The "Confessions on a Dance Floor" collection includes a song titled "Isaac" - in reference, entertainment media say, to Rabbi Isaac Luria, founder of the Kabbalah school of mysticism, which counts Madonna, 47, as one of its devotees.

The custodians of Luria's tomb and seminary in the northern Israeli town of Tzefat (Safed) accused her of breaking a taboo. "There is a prohibition in Jewish law against using the holy name of our master, the Sage Isaac, for profit," the seminary's director, Rabbi Rafael Cohen, told an Israeli newspaper on Sunday. "This is an inappropriate act, and one can feel only pity at the punishment that she (Madonna) will receive from Heaven. The Sage Isaac is holy and pure, and immodest people cannot sing about him," he said.

Catholic-born Madonna, famed for her racy lyrics and on-stage antics, has drawn frequent censure from ultra-Orthodox Jews who say her embrace of Kabbalah debases their religion. Deemed especially provocative was Madonna's music video for "Die Another Day," in which she wove tefillin around her arm, a custom usually reserved for Jewish men, before escaping from an electric chair on which Hebrew letters spelling out one of the 72 names of God appeared. "This kind of woman wreaks an enormous sin upon the Kabbalah," said Rabbi Yisrael Deri, caretaker of Luria's tomb.

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