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Olmert Goes to China


Ehud Olmert traveled to China for talks on the Iranian nuclear threat. Monday's trip also marks 15 years of relations between the countries and seeks to expand Israel's current trade relations. Olmert's family has historic ties to China: His grandparents fled there from czarist Russia in the early 1900s, and his parents were born and raised there. "China is the country which hosted my parents. They studied in China. They spoke Chinese. They grew up in China, and the Chinese culture is part of my heritage and part of my earliest memory as a young kid in the State of Israel," the Israeli prime minister was quoted as telling the Chinese news agency Xinhua. "So China is not another country for me."

Fatah Militants Release Hamas Deputy Mayor

By VOA News

Palestinians loyal to the Fatah party have released the deputy mayor of Nablus, as violence between Palestinian factions continued. Mahdi al-Khamdali was released two days after he was kidnapped in the West Bank city. He said Monday that he was not harmed by his captors.

Meanwhile, suspected Fatah militants have vandalized several stores in the West Bank city of Ramallah owned by Hamas supporters. In the neighboring town of al-Bireh, officials said gunmen staged an attack Monday on the Hamas mayor. The attack failed.

Factional fighting between supporters of Fatah and the ruling Hamas group has killed more than 30 people in Gaza in recent weeks. The violence has included kidnappings in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Violence broke out last month after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, said he would call for early elections. Fatah and Hamas had been negotiating to form a unity government, but the talks failed. Last January, Hamas won Palestinian elections for parliament. Hamas now controls the parliament and the cabinet. Fatah has the presidency.

Israel Soon to Launch New Anti-Missile Drone


A new drone designed to identify, intercept and destroy ballistic missiles as they are launched from the ground will soon make its debut.

The drone, designed and produced by the Israel Aircraft Industries, is the largest unmanned aircraft in the world. It is a huge aircraft, almost the same size as a Boeing 737 passenger airliner with a wing span of 110 feet (35 meters), said a security official quoted in Yedioth Ahronoth.

The aircraft is designed to fly at high altitudes and is equipped with cameras which identify the missiles as they are launched. It is also armed with missiles, which are used to intercept and destroy those which are fired by the enemy. Named the "Eitan," the unmanned aircraft will be used for long-range operations and is expected to make its first flight within the near future.

The development of the new anti-missile system comes as the Jewish State eyes with concern the increasing threat to its existence by saber-rattling calls from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "wipe Israel off the map."

Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon fired Iranian-made long-range missiles at Israel during the war last summer, hitting an Israeli naval vessel in Mediterranean waters and killing four sailors.

Syria and Iran have also broadened military cooperation in recent months. Iran agreed last June to sell missiles and establish weapons production plants in Syria. Defense ministers of the two Muslim countries said the agreement was intended as a move against Israel and the United States.

Earlier in the year, Iran conducted a successful test launch of its Shehab-3 surface-to-air (SAM) ballistic missile. The weapon is designed to carry a non-conventional weapon, such as an atomic warhead, according to a report that was published in the British Telegraph.

Russia has also been arming the Islamic Republic. Iran received the first of 29 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia in November, according to the Tass news agency. Iranian crews were trained by Russia to man the weapons.

Shin Bet: 14% of Suicide Bombers had Israeli Citizenship

By Ha'aretz

Thirty-eight of the 272 suicide bombings in Israel (roughly 14 percent) were carried out by terrorists that had received Israeli citizenship in the context of family reunification, a Shin Bet official told the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Monday.

The committee met Monday in order to discuss the extension of a temporary law that prevents family reunification between Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza and Israeli Arabs due to security reasons.

The Shin Bet official said the figures show it is imperative that the government extend the temporary law, which will expire January 16.

Deputy Attorney General Mike Blass also said it is absolutely necessary to extend the law, because security threats have not decreased. Justice Ministry attorney Yochi Gansin said there has been an increase in the involvement of women in terrorist attacks, including married women, widows and educated women.

Nearly all of the Knesset members who participated in the deliberations were harshly critical of calls to extend the temporary law. The committee's chairman, Labor MK Raleb Majadele, demand the committee be presented with statistics on the involvement in terror of Palestinians who received entry permits, and not just those who received citizenship as a result of family unification.

Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin called the law "a terrible law, a draconian law that has no place in the book of laws," while Hadash MK Dov Khenin said: "It is a bad law that harms human and civil rights." Ra'am-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi said the "rationale behind the law is not security but demographics."

Attorney Oded Peler from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said the association opposes extending the law, saying it constitutes collective punishment, blatantly violates individuals' constitutional rights to personal freedom, dignity, equality, and privacy, and harms family life.

This is the fourth time the Knesset has been asked to extend the temporary law. In the summer of 2005, the law was amended allow Palestinian males over the age of 35, and women over the age of 25, to begin the family reunification process. In addition, the amendments expanded the army's authority to grant entry permits for periods over six months for the purpose of medical treatment.

In May, an expanded High Court of Justice panel approved the temporary law in a 6-5 vote. The court determined, however, that arrangements must be put into place in order to put greater emphasis on humanitarian concerns.

Among the dissenting votes was former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, who argued that the "worthwhile objective of increasing security does not sanctify serious harm to the lives of thousands of Israeli citizens."

The new version of the law would change the response to humanitarian exceptions. For instance, the interior minister will determine the maximum annual quota of individuals that will receive entry permits for humanitarian reasons on the basis of a professional committee's recommendation.

In such cases, the Palestinian individuals in question may be granted not only entry permits, but also may be given temporary resident status, which will allow them to work legally.

The new version of the law would also grant the interior minister the authority to reject any citizenship request filed by residents of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon.

Hamas: Fatah in League with Zionist Conspiracy


One day after Fatah leaders spoke out against Hamas, Hamas is now warning of a "revolutionist sect within Fatah" which is trying to lead the Palestinians into civil war.

Hamas spokesman Dr. Fouzi Barhoum told reporters at a press conference on Monday that there are those in Fatah who are in league with the Zionist-American conspiracy to stage a coup and overthrow the elected Palestinian government – this as punishment for the fact that the government refuses to recognize the State of Israel .

Barhoum said that there are Israeli and American interests shared by Fatah and that the economic and political siege led by the US, Israel and officials within the PA is designed to defeat the Islamic movement – represented by Hamas which won the Palestinian vote. He said that Muhammad Dahlan – the leading Fatah leader in Gaza who once tried to overthrow Yasir Arafat – now seeks to overthrow the current government.

Barhoum said that over the course of the past month there were 70 incidents in which Hamas establishments and leaders were attacked, including parliament and the prime minister's office. He said that Hamas would not let the situation come to civil war and addressed Fatah leaders, calling them back to the Palestinian negotiation table.

Hamas, said Barhoum, will not allow groups seeking a coup to destroy it, nor will the movement allow the Zionist enemy victory. "The kidnapping of Hamas officials by Fatah is taking place while Israel continues to arrest movement leaders," he said.

Hamas' scathing comments were issued in response to a harsh speech by Muhammad Dahlan on Sunday during a Fatah rally in which he called Hamas "murderers" and said that Fatah would respond when its people are attacked. Barhoum said that Dahlan's speech was an invitation for civil war.

Ynet has learned that in preparation for a potential face-off and in light of Fatah's US-supplied weapons; Hamas and Islamic Jihad are in talks to possibly unite their ranks. A Palestinian source said that leaders from both groups have met in Damascus and in Gaza and it has been decided that the groups will form a unified front against Fatah.

The matter was discussed in these meetings between Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Abdullah Shallah. It was decided in these meetings that Islamic Jihad would initially support Hamas in the public and in the media to strengthen the organization.

In recent days Islamic Jihad has adopted virtually all of Hamas' positions in the question of its special force and who shoulders the responsibility for what has occurred on the Palestinian street.

However, it remains unclear if, should larger-scale clashes erupt, Islamic Jihad fighters would physically join Hamas but both sides continue to prepare for the possibility of an upcoming conflict, while still calling for a return to negotiations.

A Stone Not Hurled


A bereaved father has found a way to stay connected to the 17-year-old son he lost in a terrorist attack.

Assaf Tzur was one year away from beginning his IDF service when an Arab terrorist ended his future in a suicide bombing on a Haifa bus that took the lives of 17 children, women and men on March 5, 2003.

Since his murder, Assaf's father Yossi has kept his connection with his son alive through a new twist on an ancient Jewish custom – collecting stones to place on his son's grave. Visitors to a gravesite place a stone on the monument, marking the fact that someone was there and still cared about the deceased.

In an appeal sent to hundreds of people through the internet, Tzur has asked readers to send a stone for Assaf. Tzur describes in his letter all the possible places Assaf would have visited after his army service, had he lived. He talks about the many sites he himself has traveled to since that life -shattering event, describing how he has brought back pebbles from all over the world to lay at the large stone that now marks the place where his son's body is buried.

"Ever since Assaf died, whenever I go on trips inside Israel or travel abroad I bring back with me a stone," the grieving father explains in his letter. "With each stone I lay on Assaf's tombstone, I [feel] I bring the world to him; I feel as if I took Assaf with me and brought the experience of that place to him... From the Dead Sea in the south, from the Sea of Galilee in the north, from every creek and spring in Israel, shale from Ein Gedi, basalt from the Golan Heights..."

Tzur, whose own family name means "flint" (a stone that when struck, emits a spark), brings reminders of the world his son has left to the grave that remains as a monument of a life lost too soon.

"I am sending this letter in hope it will go around the world," he writes. "I ask each one of you receiving this letter to mail me a stone from wherever you live... In this way I will bring the world to him for his 21st birthday on April 27th this year."

To visit the website Tzur created in his son's memory, go to

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