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32 Years Since PLO Attack in Ma'alot


A ceremony marking 32 years since PLO terrorists massacred 27 Israelis in the town of Ma'alot took place on Sunday in the Tzefat municipal cemetery. The mayor of Tzefat, Yishai Maimon, who was held hostage by the terrorists, said the city's 22 nursery schools would be renamed in memory of the 22 children who were massacred in the attack.

Olmert: Iran `Months' Away From Nuclear Weapon

By Bloomberg News & VOA News

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Iran is ``months'' away from being able to make a nuclear weapon, contradicting U.S. assessments that the fundamentalist Islamic government won't have the capability for years.

The Iranians are quickly expanding their nuclear expertise and ability to enrich uranium, Olmert said, even as the U.S. and its allies are pressuring Iran to give up such development. ``The technological threshold is very close,'' Olmert said on CNN's ``Late Edition.'' ``It can be measured by months rather than years.''

Olmert meets with President George W. Bush Tuesday in Washington, and Iran, the world's second-largest holder of oil and gas reserves, will be one of the topics of discussion. While he wouldn't rule out Israel using military force if diplomacy fails to stop Iran's nuclear program, Olmert said ``it would be inappropriate'' to discuss that option while negotiations are under way.

Olmert, 60, said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threat to destroy Israel makes it ``incumbent upon the responsible forces in the Western world to take the necessary measures'' to stop Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

Olmert is seeking Bush's support for his plan for unilateral Israeli pullouts from large parts of the West Bank. American backing is vital, and the prime minister hopes to build on the legacy of his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma since a massive stroke in January.

Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, said. "It is very important for both sides to get to know each other, to establish a sort of relationship, hopefully, similar to the one, which exists between Sharon and Bush, although, that's a very difficult act to follow."

Olmert hopes to draw Israel's final borders by 2010 - part of his master plan to separate from the Palestinians. While Israel would relinquish much of the West Bank, it would also annex major settlement blocs, something that would not sit well with America's Arab allies.

The pullouts would be unilateral, because, with the Islamic militant group Hamas in power, Israel believes there is no Palestinian peace partner. Hamas seeks Israel's destruction.

Shoval said the United States prefers a negotiated agreement, but "I think the Americans have no illusions that there's much of a chance to make progress in negotiations, certainly, as long as the Hamas is in the picture, and the Hamas is still in the picture."

Press Report that Iranian Jews Would be Forced to Wear Yellow Patches is Retracted

By Ha'aretz

For a few hours on Friday, many around the world were ready to believe a report in the media that Iran had decided that Jews living there would be forced to wear a yellow strip of material on their clothing to denote their religion.

Leaders of international Jewish organizations were quick to respond, and likened the decision to the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany.

After it emerged that the report had been false, the affair of "the yellow patch that wasn't" left us with one lesson: The world is ready to believe anything when it comes to a country ruled by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The affair was sparked by a report Friday in Canada's National Post daily. According to the report, exiled Iranians had said that Jews in Iran (some 25,000 individuals) would be required to wear a yellow strip of material or yellow star on their clothing.

Members of other faiths, the report said, would also require color identification - red badges for Christians and blue strips of cloth for Zoroastrians.

As expected, the report was met with rage among human rights groups, and Jewish organizations in particular. Canadian Jewish Congress chairman Bernie Farber said he was "stunned" by the report on the Iranian law. "We thought this had gone the way of the dodo bird, but clearly in Iran everything old and bad is new again," Farber said. "It's state-sponsored religious discrimination."

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the executive president of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, was also quick to respond, and called on the UN secretary general to exert pressure to get the law abolished.

For his part, Diaspora Museum chairman Leonid Nevzlin went as far as calling on Jews all around the world to don yellow patches in solidarity with the Jews of Iran.

The report and the reactions spread like wildfire, and were quick to hit Web sites in Israel too. Serious news publications such as The New York Times, on the other hand, chose to ignore the affair pending further examination.

The report emerged as false on Friday evening. Yes, the parliament in Tehran recently passed a law setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments" but it has never passed a decision to mark the country's Jewish citizens. According to Iran expert Meir Javedanfar, Tehran has yet to fix the dress code for Muslims in the country, let alone for minority ethnic groups.

Several hours following its publication, the National Post retracted the article, and laid the blame for the story in the lap of veteran journalist and Iran analyst Amir Taheri.

In the retraction, the National Post quoted the spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa, who said of the original report, "These kinds of slanderous accusations are part of a smear campaign against Iran by vested interests that need to be denounced at every step."

Kassams in Sderot: Classroom Hit With Students Waiting Outside


As many as three Gaza-fired rockets hit the Negev city of Sderot Sunday morning. One hit an empty classroom while the students were praying in a different room, and another caused two women to go into shock.

The first rocket was fired by Palestinian terrorists from northern Gaza shortly after 7:30 a.m., landing at the Gevim Junction just south of Sderot. Two women were treated at the site for shock.

Shortly afterwards, the Red Dawn early-warning alarm system sounded, giving the residents some 20-30 seconds to run for cover. Within minutes, it was learned that a rocket had in fact hit - in a classroom in the center of town.

"The students were on their way to the classroom after finishing morning prayers," one person who arrived on the scene told Arutz-7, "and the classroom was still locked. Some students were waiting outside, and the teacher was on his way up - and that's when all of a sudden the rocket crashed in, hitting the teacher's chair. The teacher was very emotional, seeing that it had crashed exactly where he would have been sitting minutes later." One person was treated for shock.

"By miracle," one local woman told Arutz-7, "no one was hurt - but how long can we rely on these miracles, merely because of our leaders' foolish decisions enabling the terrorists to shoot at us? Today and Tuesday are market days here in Sderot, just two blocks away from the school, and the hesder yeshiva is two blocks to the other side - it could have landed anywhere and killed people. How long can this go on?"

The Red Dawn alarm signaled that a third Kassam rocket may also have been fired, though no reports of damage or injuries were received. The school that was hit today is the Netiv Yeshivati, a branch of the local religious high school.

Senior Palestinian-Israeli Officials Meet

By Challiss McDonough (VOA-Sharm El-Sheikh)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has met with senior Israeli officials for the first time in months. The talks took place on the sidelines of an economic meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. It was the first time Abbas met new Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and the first time he had met with any senior Israeli leaders in nearly a year.

Israel froze talks with the Palestinian government, after the Islamic terrorist group, Hamas, won an upset victory in January's election. Senior Palestinian officials characterized the meeting as exploratory, or just the beginning of a resumption of dialogue.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was also in the meeting. He said the talks took place in what he called a good atmosphere. "Very friendly, very open," said Shimon Peres. "We did not come to commit ourselves. Neither did the Palestinians come to commit themselves. But as a preparation and an opening, particularly on the economic side, where we were more specific, I think it was useful."

Abbas said he expects to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when Olmert returns from his visit this week to Washington. The Palestinian leader also said he is starting a dialogue with Hamas leaders in the next few days, in an effort to end violence in the Gaza Strip among rival Palestinian factions. He called it a crisis.

Abbas said civil war is a red line that nobody dares to cross, no matter what side they are on. He says civil war is forbidden. Hamas and Abbas' Fatah party are battling - sometimes violently - over control of the security apparatus in Gaza.

Israeli officials described the talks in Sharm El-Sheikh as an effort to avert a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Authority is facing a fiscal crisis. Western countries have withdrawn their financial backing for the Palestinian government, since Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Israeli officials say they have released $11 million in Palestinian tax revenues that they had frozen in response to the Hamas victory.

Giant Anti-Retreat Rally Scheduled in Washington


A massive pro-Israel, anti-withdrawal rally will be held in Washington on Tuesday, coinciding with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's request for billions of dollars to aid the retreat.

The protestors will urge President Bush not to provide aide for Olmert's unilateral retreat plan, which has been condemned on both sides of the political spectrum. Some 200 Jewish and Christian organizations have already announced their participation.

El Al Plane in Geneva Saved From Terrorists' Rocket


The Swiss intelligence agency uncovered a terrorist gang planning to blow up an El Al plane during take-off, and for a week, diverted all El Al flights to Zurich.

It has only now been publicized that an unnamed Islamic terror gang planned to fire an RPG missile at a plane as it took off from the Geneva airport. The Swiss agents first learned of the terrorists' plans five months ago.

An undercover agent inside the Islamic Center in Geneva became friendly with several immigrants from Arab countries, and they told him of their intentions. The terrorists had planned to flee to Iraq after the attack.

Armed with the alarming information, the Swiss security service investigated the airport and environs. The warning was also submitted to the local police, but no arrests were made in the case.

For a week, El Al planes were kept away from Geneva, flying to Zurich - 140 miles to the northeast - instead. El Al was contacted for its response following publication of the story, but said that it does not comment on security matters.

Many El Al planes are equipped with the FlightGuard system, designed to interfere with shoulder-fired missiles. FlightGuard creates another source of heat, in addition to the plane's engines, so that the heat-guided missiles will be misled and diverted away from the plane.

According to U.S. State Department estimates, shoulder-fired missiles have downed 25 airplanes and killed over 600 people since the 1970s. The weapons – termed MANPADs (man-portable, air defense systems) – are a favorite among terrorist groups, as they are relatively inexpensive and easy to transport and conceal.

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