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Hi-Tech Funerals


Funerals in Hod Hasharon will feature hi-tech equipment, according to a report by the Jerusalem Post. The Neveh Hadar cemetery is installing an internet webcam system that will include moveable cameras and will make available copies of the webcast on CD-Rom for relatives who are unable to attend a loved one's funeral. The system is expected to cost NIS 50,000 and will be completed within the next few weeks.

Peretz: PA Continues Attacks, Hizbullah Continues Arming


Defense Minister Amir Peretz admitted that the war in Lebanon strengthened Hizbullah, said Knesset member Yuval Steinitz. Attempts at bombings by PA terrorists continue. As for Syria, Peretz foresees "costly concessions."

Steinitz (Likud) claimed that Peretz admitted that the recently fought war in Lebanon has strengthened the Hizbullah terrorist organization. Furthermore, Peretz reported that weapons and money continue to pour into Lebanon from Iran, earmarked for the Hizbullah. Peretz made these admissions publicly for the first time, according to Steinitz, during a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.

In reaction to questions by Knesset members regarding reports that Hizbullah supporters are approaching the border fence between Israel and Lebanon, where possible, and throwing rocks at IDF soldiers with impunity, Peretz said only that there are no armed Hizbullah terrorists on the border.

Israel sees the ceasefire agreement brokered by the United Nations in Lebanon - which calls for a withdrawal of Israeli troops, a deployment of UN peacekeepers and, ultimately, a deployment of Lebanese army forces in southern Lebanon - as "not yet completed," Peretz said. Until the fulfillment of the ceasefire terms, Peretz added, Israeli jets would continue to fly in Lebanese airspace.

"Until rules governing eventualities that could occur along the border are formulated, such as rules of engagement, we will not leave southern Lebanon," Peretz said. "There is continuing dialogue concerning what is permitted and what is forbidden. We want to establish new rules for the Blue Line." The "Blue Line" refers to the international border recognized by the United Nations between Lebanon and Israel.

Nonetheless, the defense minister told the parliamentary committee that he hoped all Israeli troops would be withdrawn from Lebanon by the end of this week.

On the Palestinian Authority front, Peretz informed the Knesset committee that 10 suicide bombings were thwarted in the last several weeks. The source of the attempted bombings was PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria. He added that there are still warnings of more planned bombings by PA terrorists.

"We have reached the upper limit of operations in Gaza," Peretz said. "The operations reach every source of threat." He said that the IDF is responding harshly to the ongoing rocket fire by PA terrorists, without "looking for each Kassam's shipping invoice." On Tuesday, a Kassam rocket struck Sderot, injuring a female soldier.

Knesset member Esterina Tratman (Yisrael Beitenu) said Tuesday that she felt Israel could be doing more to secure the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held by elements from the Hamas terrorist organization, currently the governing body in the PA. Tratman suggested that Israel destroy PA infrastructure and "cut off all oxygen so that they cry "Mercy. Why should they have electricity if Shalit has not been returned? Where is our strength? Where is our logic?" she asked.

Regarding Israel's relationship with Syria and its leader Bashar al-Assad, Peretz told the committee, "Ultimately, there will be a diplomatic solution, with costly concessions, and we must not shut the door on any dialogue with Syria."

In contrast, Knesset member Silvan Shalom (Likud) said that Israel must take seriously Assad's declarations intimating a threat of war against Israel. "Also before the Yom Kippur War declarations of this kind were made, which were not taken seriously. We must [pay attention] to everything so as to not be taken by surprise. I have asked the defense minister to give priority to evaluating our preparedness against the Syrian threat."

Shalom added his own analysis: "Assad, who grew up with a certain narrative about the defensive response of Israel, is likely to go to war and we must be prepared."

Towards the conclusion of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Peretz detailed the plans and changes underway in the military. "We are beginning a program to upgrade the reservist and standing army emergency supply warehouses," the defense minister said. "We are completing the plan of action. Already this year, the plan is going into effect."

Peretz further explained that during 2007 and 2008, every reserve soldier would undergo operational training, according to as-yet undetermined parameters. To that end, Peretz said, 76% of the reservists will be called up over the course of the coming two years.

UN Envoy Blames Israel for Palestinian Humanitarian Crisis

By VOA News

A United Nations human rights envoy said Israel is largely responsible for the deteriorating humanitarian situation for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

U.N. envoy John Dugard told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Tuesday that Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison where three-quarters of the residents are dependent on food aid. He said life for citizens in Gaza is "intolerable" and "tragic."

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Itzhak Levanon rejected the allegations. He said the report does not reflect reality and places the entire blame on Israel.

Dugard also criticized the United States, Canada and the European Union for withdrawing funding to the Palestinian Authority in protest of the views of its governing party Hamas. Hamas refuses to accept Israel's right to exist.

Israeli PM-Saudi Royal Meeting: "Fabricated" or Not?


Though denied by both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Saudi government, reports persist that a meeting between the prime minister and a member of the Saudi royal family took place this month.

According to a story initially reported by Yedioth Ahronoth this week, Olmert and a senior Saudi Arabian official, possibly the desert kingdom's regent, King Abdullah, met earlier this month at an undisclosed location. The meeting was convened, Yedioth reported, to discuss of the Iranian threat to the region and other current issues, marking the first time an Israeli leader has met with a Saudi official.

On Monday, Olmert denied the reports, which were picked up by Arab print and broadcast media, saying that he was misquoted by the Yedioth Ahronoth reporter who had interviewed him. The prime minister said he related to the newspaper "what I think - that the Saudi position during the war in Lebanon was evidence of its taking responsibility." Saudi Arabia originally condemned Hizbullah for bringing about the war, but later toned down its comments.

Olmert charged the media with creating "sensations" by reporting an alleged Saudi-Israeli meeting. "I am not angry," he said. "I am able to see the pleasure that people have by creating headlines" that attract readers. Aides to the prime minister declined to answer when asked if Olmert has met with any senior Saudi officials.

For its part, the official Saudi Arabian foreign ministry response to the reports of the secret meeting is that the story was "completely fabricated."

"The news story circulated by Israeli and Qatari media recently over contacts between Saudi and Israeli officials is utterly false," said the SPA state-owned news agency, quoting an unnamed foreign ministry official. The official added that Saudi Arabia "undertakes its national duties in transparency."

Osama Nugali, Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, told the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the kingdom did not hold any talks with Israel, emphasizing that there are no "secret" contacts and that Saudi Arabia's diplomatic efforts and initiatives are public knowledge.

On the other hand, speaking with the British Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres praised the Saudi diplomatic initiative, saying that he sees Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran as the chief obstacles to implementing it. The Saudi diplomatic initiative was first floated in 2002, and would include Arab recognition of Israel, Israeli withdrawal from all territories captured in 1967, and a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Guardian quoted Peres as saying: "The Arab world says: 'Let's make an overall agreement'.... Why not? The only thing is, can they control Hamas? Can they control Hizbullah? Can they control Iran? Because to make peace and to have war is not a great attraction. ...We know actually the Saudi plan and again the problem arises, what happens to the terrorist groups? Because they are the basic obstacle right now."

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