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60 Minutes' ITS Documentary Available on Internet

By Israel Faxx News Service

If you did not see the 12-minute documentary on plans to give public access to the records of the International Tracing Service, it can be viewed on the Internet at www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=2274705n. The program featured three Holocaust survivors viewing for the first time documents of their imprisonment during the Holocaust period.


Palestinians: Agreement Reached on Prisoner Release

By YnetNews.com & Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Islamic Jihad announced early Tuesday that an agreement had been reached to release four Fatah prisoners and 18 Hamas prisoners.

The two organizations said in the statement, "As part of the efforts to end the bloodshed within Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Islamic Jihad started an immediate cease of confrontations between Hamas and Fatah in the northern Gaza Strip, and reached an agreement to release prisoners on both sides, and to clam down in order to preserve Palestinian blood." There have not yet been reports of the prisoners' release.

Israel is playing down reports of an imminent prisoner swap with Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that heads the Palestinian Authority. Each side is accusing the other of holding up the deal.

Israeli officials said there has been no significant progress in efforts to win the release of a soldier kidnapped by Hamas terrorists six months ago and held in the Gaza Strip.

Israel played down a statement by a spokesman for the Hamas military wing, Abu Ubaida, who reported a breakthrough in negotiations for a prisoner swap. Ubaida told Israel Radio that a deal could be imminent after Israel softened its position.

Hamas is demanding the release of 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the captive soldier, 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit. The freed Palestinians would include top terrorists convicted of involvement in deadly attacks against Israelis.

But Israel says the price is too high, and paying it would be a reward for terrorism. Shalit's capture in June prompted Israel to launch a major military offensive in Gaza that went on for months. That brought suffering on the Palestinian people, but Israeli analyst Zvi Mazal said Hamas is in no hurry to make a deal.

"Hamas did not abduct Gilad Shalit to give him back immediately," he said. "They wanted to harass Israel, to keep it off balance for a long time, because their aspiration, or their interests, is not the welfare of the Palestinian people."

But Hamas believes a major prisoner release would boost support for the group on the Palestinian street. One Hamas official said the ball is in Israel's court. He said the captive soldier could be released in days, or years.


Clouds of War: The Year Ahead for Israel

By CBN News

On its northern border, Israel watches Hizbullah regroup and grow in power after last summer's four-week war. And on its southern border near the sea, chaos reigns in Gaza - one of the world's chief collecting points for terrorists and weapons.

To the north and east is Syria, stocked with chemical weapons and eager to make mischief against Lebanon and Israel. And finally, from the Persian Gulf sits Iran bidding to be nuclear, dedicated to Israel's destruction, and eager for the Islamic re-conquest of Jerusalem.

Just five months from now, Israel will mark the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day war, when Israeli soldiers expanded the nation's borders and put Jerusalem under Jewish control for the first time in 2,000 years.

In 2007, Israel's enemies will try to advance their jihadist plan to take back Jerusalem and Israel for Islam. At the forefront is Iran, which funds Islamic terrorist groups and militias, and by the account of most experts is one to four years away from making nuclear weapons.

"Israel would like to see sanctions imposed on Iran before it tests a nuclear device. But in addition to pessimism about the effect of those sanctions, Israel is also planning for the possibility they may go at it alone militarily against Iran and launch a military strike. And that day may come," said Yaakov Katz, military reporter for the Jerusalem Post.

Iran's proxy in Lebanon, Hizbullah, is now the strongest political force in the country. Israel's military sees the re-arming of Hizbullah from the Syrian border, but can do little about it.

"One way to stop that would be bomb the trucks, bomb the convoys," said Katz. "But there would be major diplomatic backlash as a result of that, which Israel at this point isn't able to risk."

While some in Washington call for dialogue with Israel's enemies, some Middle East analysts, such as author and lecturer Michael Widlanski, warn that such a move would send the wrong signal.

"If we try to placate Syria and Iran, it'll be like trying to placate a fire by throwing more twigs on the flames. The fire isn't gonna be convinced, it'll just get bigger," said Widlanski.

Widlanski says the Islamists are feeding off of the perceived defeats of the U.S. in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon. He said, "In this neighborhood, the perception of strength is strength. And if you are perceived as being weak, you will be mugged; you will be attacked; you will be raped. And so the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is not to avoid a fight, but to project a perception that you can defend yourself and your interests."

Israel's next big problem may be its nearest one: Gaza and the West Bank. Tons of high grade explosives and other materials have arrived through tunnels such as the ones one group of Israeli soldiers found on the Egyptian border.

And Hamas, with its large supply of rockets and inspired by the success of Hizbullah in Lebanon, is building a 10,000 man army and digging in for a fight.

"We saw in the summer in Lebanon a major series of underground reinforced bunkers that were used by the Hizbullah to launch attacks against Israel," said Katz. "Hamas is trying to do the same: to dig and build these bunkers in the Gaza strip, prepare for war against Israel."

Widlanski asked," So who's going to stop Iran? Who's going to stop Syria? Who's going to stop Hizbullah? Who's going to stop Hamas? Is the whole world with its billions of people waiting for six million Israelis to do the job for it?

In 2007, the answer to all of those questions may be "yes."


Rice to the Region

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to return to Israel at the end of this week to advance talks between the Jewish State and the Palestinian Authority.

Rice is set to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as well as with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, reported the Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

She last met with the two leaders during a visit to the region in November, during which she helped prepare them to meet with each other as part of the American effort to get its Road Map plan back on track.

Both Olmert and Abbas have spent the time since November working to bridge the gap between their two constituencies while maintaining their credibility in the two separate worlds.

The two men met Saturday night, December 23rd, as a way of jump-starting stalled negotiations between Israel and the PA in advance of Rice's planned visit to the region.

Concessions made by Israel at the meeting included transferring some $100 million in frozen tax revenues to the PA, easing of travel restrictions and increasing work permits for PA Arabs who wish to enter the pre-1967 areas of Israel.

There were no apparent concessions offered by Abbas, other than to reiterate his full support of the November 26th ceasefire between Israel and the PA, which has thus far been violated more than 60 times by Arab terrorists.

The terms of the ceasefire agreement on paper stipulate that PA terrorists would end rocket attacks fired from northern Gaza at western Negev Jewish communities, and Israel would refrain from carrying out a military response to such attacks.

After more than 60 bombardments of Israeli targets, however, Olmert was forced to allow the defense establishment to respond to the attacks in an effort to minimize the damage to the communities and his ebbing credibility.

Olmert's popularity plunged still further after two young teenage boys were severely injured in a Kassam rocket attack on the besieged community of Sderot some 72 hours after his meeting with Abbas. A successful rocket attack on a strategic location in the southern port city of Ashkelon during the same period only served to exacerbate an already tense situation.

"A directive has been given to the defense establishment to take pinpoint action against rocket-launching squads," said Olmert in a statement by his office. "Israel will continue to maintain the ceasefire and work with the PA so that immediate steps are taken to halt the Kassam firings."

Abbas, meanwhile, was facing similar difficulties on his side of the security fence. The embattled PA chairman found himself struggling with increasing internecine violence. In addition, he found himself facing the distinct possibility that he will not be his Fatah faction's chosen candidate in the early elections he himself had called.

In a desperate effort to re-establish an atmosphere of optimistic cooperation, Abbas proposed the idea of quiet "away from the media" negotiations with Olmert. The PA chairman told reporters after his meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last week, "We have proposed the idea of back channel talks… and with the participation of members of the Quartet (U.S., Russia, United Nations and European Union)… with the aim of discussing the final phase."

Abbas made it clear that he and Olmert had reached a standstill in their talks and that direct participation by the Bush administration was required. "I think that when Rice is here it will be the time to talk about this issue seriously," he said.

It is also believed that the release of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit will be coordinated during the upcoming visit. The Israeli officer was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists from Gaza in a cross border raid on an army outpost last June.

Olmert is scheduled to meet with Mubarak this Thursday in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in advance of Rice's visit to the region. Olmert and Mubarak are expected to discuss the talks each of them held with Abbas in the past two weeks, as well as the latest proposal for a prisoner swap deal to secure Shalit's freedom.


Arabs Continue to Mourn Saddam Hussein

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Arabs across the Palestinian Authority continued their demonstrations Monday mourning the death of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who was hanged Saturday in Baghdad.

Some 500 people attended a rally mourning Saddam in Halhoul, near Hebron in the southern part of Judea, waving flags of the feuding Hamas and Fatah factions. They burned the Israeli and American flags, and chanted slogans against Iran and against Iraqi Shiites such as Muqtada al-Sadr who opposed Saddam - and was executed by him.

In the northern Samaria town of Yabed, near Jenin, 500 people participated in a march for Saddam, firing in the air, and chanting slogans in memory of Saddam. The also opened a mourning tent in his honor.


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