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Police Prevent Tourists and Jews from Temple Mount

By Israel Faxx News Service

Jerusalem Police will prevent tourists and Jews from entering the Temple Mount on Thursday, following a situation analysis held after receiving intelligence information on tension in the area. The decision was taken after a recommendation by Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franco. Large numbers of police will be mobilized in east Jerusalem from the early morning hours on Thursday.

Political Coalition Building Begins in Israel Following Election

By VOA News, & Reuters

Israel's president said he would consult with political parties in Israel about forming a new government, following parliament elections on Tuesday. Israel's Kadima Party will lead the government, although with a smaller number of seats than expected.

It is up to President Moshe Katsav to ask the party that wins the largest number of seats to form the next government. Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party won 28 seats in Tuesday's vote. Behind-the-scenes coalition building has already begun.

Katsav said the objective is stability. Israel's president said Israelis want a government that can fill out its full four-year term.

Senior Kadima officials said they hope to have a government in place after the Jewish Passover holiday, which begins April 12. Kadima's main coalition partner is expected to be the Labor Party, which won 20 seats.

After that however, Kadima will have to rely on smaller parties to achieve a majority with which it hopes to implement Ariel Sharon's and now Ehud Olmert's ambitious plan to draw Israel's final border with the Palestinians in the next four years.

Asher Arian a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and a professor of political science at the City University of New York said Kadima's inability to achieve a large election mandate would hurt its chances of achieving its goals.

"Kadima is too small to be a driving force in Israeli politics for the next four years," he said. "Kadima will run the country, or will try and run the country, but it will be very very dependent on its coalition partners."

Among those coalition partners could be the Pensioners Party which astounded Israelis by coming out of nowhere to win seven seats, and the Shas Party, which caters to Orthodox Jews of Middle Eastern descent, that won the third most number of seats. In a further surprise, the once-dominant Likud Party, which Ariel Sharon left last year to form Kadima, was reduced to 11 seats - seen as a bitter defeat for party head and ex-prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Palestinians have reacted negatively to the election results. Incoming Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who refuses to recognize Israel, and is regarded by Israel and most international donors as the head of a terrorist organization said he sees no progress in the near future.

Haniyeh said if Israel does not recognize Palestinian rights and release prisoners there would be another cycle of violence in the region.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he believes the Israeli election would have no effect on the peace process unless Ehud Olmert changes his stated policy of keeping large settlement blocs, and demarcating Israel's new border along the lines of Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank.

President George W. Bush on Wednesday invited Olmert to visit Washington immediately after he forms a cabinet. Olmert's office said Bush telephoned to congratulate the interim leader on the victory of his centrist Kadima party "The interim prime minister added that he is interested in continuing the same policy begun by Prime Minister Sharon and to advance the diplomatic track," the statement said.

Olmert took over from Ariel Sharon when the former general suffered a massive stroke on January 4. He has given fresh momentum to Sharon's policy of disengaging from conflict with the Palestinians by planning to uproot isolated settlements in the West Bank while expanding larger blocs if peacemaking remains frozen. Olmert has said he would seek American approval for the plan.

Last week Olmert's Kadima party revealed it would divide Jerusalem and allow a Palestinian state to be established in parts of Israel's "eternal capital." The revelation followed months of denials by top Kadima officials that the party would advocate withdrawing from Jerusalem.

"The Old City, Mount Scopus, the Mount of Olives, the City of David, Sheikh Jarra will remain in our hands, but [regarding] Kafr Akeb, Abu-Ram, Shuafat, Hizma, Abu-Zaim, Abu-Tur, Abu Dis, in the future, when the Palestinian state is established, they will become its capital," said Otniel Schneller, a Kadima member who represented the party at an official debate on dividing Jerusalem.

The neighborhoods Schneller listed are located on Jerusalem's periphery near the city's border with the West Bank. Schneller said Kadima supports "separation between us and the Palestinians who don't live in the heart of Jerusalem," claiming there would be "no concessions" on sites sacred to Jews.

Kadima's claims of "only" withdrawing from peripheral sections of Jerusalem worry many here. The Israeli government has denied previous withdrawal plans, only to carry them out later – and follow with announcements of more withdrawals in larger magnitudes from areas it pledged not to vacate.

Suicide Bomber Caught, Navy Shells Rocket Launching Sites


In the wake of the Election Day Katyusha missile attack, terrorist attempts continued to spike with the rise of Kadima and Hamas. For the first time, the Navy has shelled rocket launching sites.

The IDF's Nahal Hareidi brigade apprehended an Arab suicide bomber already wearing a bomb-belt Wednesday afternoon.

The terrorist was caught at the Beka'ot checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, which is manned by members of the special religious brigade. The 18–year-old had traveled from Shechem and was supposed to be picked up by Israeli Arab terrorists and driven to a population center to blow himself up among the maximum number of people he could find.

The explosives contained in the belt weighed upwards of 80 pounds, local commander Col. Motti Elmoz told Army Radio. The explosives were detonated by sappers in a controlled explosion.

More than 70 intelligence warnings of planned terror attacks remain in effect across Israel. At the Hawara checkpoint, just south of Shechem, and in Hebron as well, soldiers arrested PA Arabs with large knives suspected of intending to carry out stabbing attacks. Both suspects are being questioned.

At Rachel's Tomb, the burial place of the Jewish Matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem, a terrorist threw an explosive device at a public Israeli bus Wednesday afternoon. Though there were no injuries in the attack, security officials are concerned about the increasing violence targeting the Jewish religious site.

Israel responded to Kassam rocket attacks Wednesday by attacking launching sites in Gaza from the sea for the first time, using naval vessels to fire artillery at the open fields and launch sites favored by terrorists.

Five Kassam rockets struck the western Negev Wednesday – fired from areas in northern Gaza formerly home to Jewish communities, which were destroyed as part of last summer's unilateral withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad said that the Russian-made Katyusha missile fired toward the city of Ashkelon on Election Day was just a first attempt, and promised to improve its aim and range in future attacks.

While Israelis were going to the polls Tuesday, the Hamas terror group formerly took its place at the head of the Palestinian Authority and vocalized its intentions to create an Islamist regime that would sponsor and encourage terror attacks, "and whose greatest desire is martyrdom for Allah," a senior official told the parliament. He was answered with applause and chants of "Allahu Akbar."

Palestinian President Swears In Hamas-Led Cabinet

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Islamic terrorist group Hamas is officially in control of the Palestinian Authority after the group's 24-member cabinet was sworn in. The ceremony could mark the beginning of a period of intense confrontation between Hamas and the international community over the Hamas refusal to disarm and recognize Israel.

Hamas cabinet members put their hands on a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and swore to be loyal to the "homeland and its holy places," as they took the oath of office. Of the 24 cabinet members, 14 have served time in Israeli jails.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presided over the ceremony in the Gaza Strip where Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, and other leading members of the cabinet reside. Because of Israeli travel restrictions on Hamas leaders, other cabinet members were sworn in by a video link from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

At a news conference, Haniyeh said Hamas would support any negotiations that President Abbas undertakes to ease tensions in the region and that his government would study any peace initiatives that follow what he describes as "Palestinian principles."

In brief remarks following Haniyeh, Abbas said many differences remain between his positions and Hamas, and that Hamas knows "what is required of it, including in its dealings with Israel."

The swearing-in ceremony came two months after Hamas won Palestinian Parliamentary elections on January 25, winning 74 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council, soundly defeating President Abbas' Fatah Party.

Since then the group, which is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, and the European Union, has stubbornly refused to budge from its position of not recognizing Israel.

Israel has put in place measures to cut off the transfer of about $50 million a month in tax and customs revenue it normally turns over to the Palestinian Authority. The European Union has pledged to continue humanitarian aid, but also said it would not work with a Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority. The United States has ordered its diplomats and contractors to stop all contacts with the Palestinian Authority.

Samir Abdullah, the director of the independent Economic Studies Institute in Ramallah, said he believes if international donors go through with their plans to cut financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, Hamas could be strengthened.

"This is the wrong approach," he said. "If the Hamas government fails as a result of this pressure no one will blame it. Believe me if it fails and we have a collapse and a bankruptcy in the budget and the president asks for a new election, Hamas will get even more votes than it got a few months ago.

New Outbreak of Bird Flu in Israel


The H5N1 avian influenza virus has been discovered in a new location in Israel, Israel Radio reported Wednesday morning. The disease has spread to a poultry farm in Ma'aleh Ha'Hamisha near Jerusalem, it said.

On Sunday, Israeli authorities said they largely managed to contain the disease, but since it was first confirmed in Israel almost two weeks ago, it has spread to a total of seven locations in the Jewish state.

It has also been confirmed at at least two farms in the Gaza Strip and a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Israeli agriculture ministry staff has culled more than one million turkeys and chickens at the Israeli farms.

Political and Celestial Realignment as Solar Eclipse Envelopes Israel


A 82% solar eclipse enveloped Israel in sudden darkness Wednesday. The eclipse began at 11:37 a.m., peaked at 12:58, and lasted until 2:13 p.m.

As Israel digested the results of Tuesday's election, the sky went dark, the sun was slowly blocked out, temperatures dropped and animals howled, barked and crowed across the Land of Israel.

An eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun during daylight hours, causing its shadow to pass across the planet. Viewed from inside the moon's shadow on Earth, the moon is exactly the right size to completely block the sun. From Israel, Wednesday's eclipse blocked 82% of the sun.

The moon's shadow began in Brazil, crossed the Atlantic, Ghana, Nigeria and Chad. The shadow of the moon then passed by way of the Mediterranean across southeast Turkey and continued until Siberia.

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