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Egypt to Supply Electricity to Hamas Controlled Gaza


Egypt says it will supply electricity to the Gaza Strip.

The move comes after the EU and Israel have stopped subsidizing and delivering fuel to the Strip after irregularities were discovered concerning the fuel already supplied and suspicions increased that terrorists were using the fuel to power Kassam rockets.

EU Says No Fuel Supplies to Gaza Unless Hamas Drops Plan to Tax Electricity

By Teri Schultz (VOA-Brussels)

The European Union said a Hamas plan to try to make money off EU fuel donations to the Gaza Strip means the suspension of fuel oil deliveries to the territory will continue. Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been without electricity for days and there is no word on when power might resume.

Gaza's main power plant is dependent on fuel provided by the European Union, which cut off deliveries last Thursday. Officials initially blamed security problems for the cut off, but a European Commission spokeswoman explained Monday that the halt in deliveries is also because Hamas plans to begin taxing electricity.

Since Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, the EU will block it from capitalizing on humanitarian aid provided for Gaza residents under what is called the "Temporary Implementation Mechanism" or TIM. Such a tax, says Commission spokeswoman Antonia Mochan, would be unacceptable.

"This would not allow us to continue paying for fuel helping to produce the electricity," she said. "We are ready to resume payment of these fuel deliveries within hours once we have assurances these taxes will not be introduced. Obviously we need to ensure that our aid paid through the TIM fulfills its purpose, which is the support to benefit the Gaza population."

Mochan explained that the EU pays about $9 million a month to supply fuel for the plant, an arrangement set up last year. The funds go to an Israeli supplier, which allows the EU to avoid any direct financial dealings with Hamas while providing the aid. Hamas officials denied there are plans for an electricity tax but there have also been other problems with the delivery of the fuel.

Last Thursday Israel closed the border crossing used to transport the fuel due to security threats. Mochan said that is also one of the factors under review as the Commission considers a resumption of the fuel aid.

"There were security concerns particularly related to the tense situation at the crossing points and we are assessing the situation to ensure that all the elements are in place to allow a high level of accountability before assuming delivery," she said.

Israel re-opened the border crossing on Sunday, but by that time the EU had decided to hold up the shipments over the tax issue. With no reserves of fuel, the plant has been shut down since Friday.

Scientists Oppose Peres' Dead Sea Canal Scheme


The World Bank has finished a series of public hearings on a project which will link the Red Sea in the Gulf of Eilat to the depleted and polluted Dead Sea, located between Israel and Jordan.

The project, which calls for the digging of a canal between the two bodies of water, has been touted by President Shimon Peres as part of the "Peace Valley" scheme which he believes will bring Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel closer together.

But environmental groups and geologists quoted in an Al-Jazeera feature said the plan could damage three unique local ecosystems: the Gulf of Eilat; the Arava Valley between Eilat and the Dead Sea as well as the Dead Sea itself.

Opponents of the project said the political motivation of uniting Israel, Jordan and the PA behind one joint project has produced a climate in which the environmental effects of the endeavor are not being properly considered.

Proponents said it would save the Dead Sea. Its water level has been dropping by an average of 1 meter per year. As a result, the unique ecology and the economic development in the Dead Sea region are in serious danger. Environmentalists have distributed a bumper sticker seen on many Israeli cars that reads "Save the Dead Sea."

The World Bank said the $5 billion construction cost of a water conveyance system bringing salt water from the Red Sea would stabilize the Dead Sea's level and thus preserve tourism, agriculture and mineral extraction in the region.

Clive Lipchin, director of research at the Arava institute for environmental studies, said, however, that the Gulf of Eilat "is already overdeveloped with 70 percent coral mortality on the Israeli side."

"For the Arava Valley," he said, "the threat emanates from possible earthquakes which could cause a break in the canal and flood the valley with seawater, destroying agriculture and polluting the groundwater used by Israel and Jordan.

"The most serious problem, about which very little is known," said Lipchin, "is the mixing of the waters - the Dead Sea with the Red Sea. This is what is unique to the project and has never before been attempted. We simply cannot predict what the outcome will be."

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), said: "The Bank is simply refusing to listen to real alternatives that have been put on the table."

One alternative to the plan proposed by environmentalists and local geologists includes channeling the flow of water in the north back to the Jordan River which flows into the Dead Sea. Over the past 50 years, the amount of fresh water the Jordan River has carried into the Dead Sea has decreased from 1.3 billion cubic meters annually, to just 70 – 100 million cubic meters. This is because Israel, Jordan and Syria now divert 95 percent of the flow.

As a result, "the culturally and historically important Jordan River has been turned into little more than an open sewage channel," FoEME said.

FoEME's report on rerouting water back to the Jordan River predicts: "There would be a sizeable net environmental gain from rehabilitating the Jordan River and the Dead Sea with no negative environmental implications. This must be compared to the significant risks associated with the RDC [Red-Dead Canal] project.

Dan Zaslavski, a former Israeli water commissioner, estimated that regenerating the flow of the Jordan River from the north to bring water to the Dead Sea would cost no more than $800 million, less than one-sixth of the estimated financial outlay of the RDC project.

Earlier this year, Israel's President Shimon Peres said the "project of the canal, or the peace conduit ... is vital for the preservation of the Dead Sea, but just as much for peace and prosperity in the area." The World Bank's feasibility study regarding the planned project is expected to begin in September.

In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, Israel considered a canal channeling water from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea, but eventually shelved the plans due to financial doubts. The Red Sea - Dead Sea alternative now being discussed is considered to be less worthwhile economically.

Ashkelon Schools to Get Rocket Panic Button


Schools in the coastal city of Ashkelon are slated to receive electronic systems that would quickly alert authorities in the event of a rocket attack. In the meantime, the battered western Negev continues to absorb enemy barrages. One enemy rocket fell close to the strategic Ashkelon industrial area.

The Home Front Command is allocating more than $100 million for the installation of a "panic button" system in pre-school nurseries and schools to make it easier to alert authorities in the event of a rocket attack on Ashkelon.

Oil and gas pipelines and a giant electricity generating station are located in the port city, sparking concerns that Palestinian Authority terrorists are making a concerted effort to strike those targets.

On Sunday, one enemy rocket fell close to the strategic Ashkelon industrial area, while last month, a rocket hit a home in a community just south of Ashkelon. A baby was injured by shrapnel in that attack, while the child's mother and grandmother suffered shock.

More generally, in the last two weeks Arab terrorists have escalated rocket and mortar attacks on Jewish cities in the Negev. On Monday, PA attackers launched several rockets at Sderot and its environs.

One Kassam rocket fired by terrorists late Monday night landed in an uninhabited area in the western Negev. Earlier in the day, PA elements fired four Kassam rockets in two separate attacks. One rocket landed in an open area near the city of Sderot, while the second hit the farm owned by the family of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Two other rockets, fired successively, fell in uninhabited areas north of Sderot. No injuries or damage were reported in any of the barrages.

U.S. Court to Deny Circumcision in Custody Case


American Jewish groups are worried over a petition in an Oregon court challenging the right of parents to circumcise a 12-year-old boy whose father converted to Judaism.

The boy's divorced mother, Lia Bioldt, argued that her son, who lives with his now-Jewish father, is afraid to tell him he does not want to be circumcised. She added he will be harmed physically and psychologically by the procedure that is a basic tenet of Jewish law.

The court has to decide whether a parent can make religion decision for their children. "We have to win this case and wit it big," said American Jewish Congress attorney Marc Stern, who is filing a brief backing the father. "Our position is that the custodial parent can take into account religious interests in determining what is in the interest of the child."

Tennis: Israeli Doubles Team Wins Big in Cincinnati


The Israeli doubles team of Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich claimed their first career ATP Masters Series Title after beating out the world's top-rated doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan in Cincinnati.

The dramatic win came after the team fought back after being only one point away from losing the match. The final score was 4-6, 6-3, 13-11. The Israeli team won four titles in 2006, but until then had lost all of their three finals of 2007 including two to the Bryans, a team of twin brothers.

Evidence Suggests That People Attending Synagogue Live Longer

By Ha'aretz

Adults who attend synagogue regularly live longer than their peers who do not attend synagogue, according to a recently published study carried out by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The research, conducted by Prof. Howard Litwin of the university's Israel Gerontological Data Center (IGDC), was published in The European Journal of Aging. The aim of the study was to examine the relationship between social interaction and longevity. Litwin heads the IGDC, which was established with support from the Central Bureau of Statistics with the objective of researching aging in Israel.

The study was based on a Bureau of Statistics survey conducted in 1997, for which 5,000 Israeli men and women aged 60 and above were interviewed about their way of life. In 2004, the number of participants still living was monitored. In a focus group of 1,811, some 38 percent had passed away. The researchers then examined these findings in relation to the participants' way of life.

According to Litwin, the death rate was highest among participants who were elderly and sick. The participants were also classified according to income, with two-thirds more lower-income participants passing away than higher income groups.

Among elderly people who suffered from depression, the death rate was 80 percent higher than among those who did not. "These findings are not surprising," said Litwin, "but we did find two other unique variables that influence survival: the frequency of communication with friends and the frequency of synagogue attendance. Those who attended synagogue regularly clearly had the highest rate of survival," he said.

Data showed that the death rate was 75 percent higher among the group that did not attend synagogue than it was among the group that attended synagogue regularly. Litwin said that there is no clear-cut explanation for the synagogue attendance effect, but outlined two main possibilities.

"One explanation is spiritual, that is, the individual faith factor," he said. "A series of studies that have been conducted in recent years, especially in the United States, argue that faith helps people deal with psychological pressure. People who believe and pray apparently survive longer. Another explanation is the connection between attending synagogue and belonging to a supportive community," he added.

Litwin said that in late old age decreased social activity is a common problem. "A person who goes to synagogue has a function: He is called to the Torah, and he has a network of social ties in the community." Litwin also noted that since religious Jews do not drive on Shabbat, a person who goes to synagogue regularly must be able to walk, and hence is healthier.

For those who do not attend synagogue, friends can serve as an alternative. "It's important to remember that according to the findings, social ties carry the same weight as attending synagogue," Litwin stressed. "This means that in order to live long, there is no need to be particularly righteous, but it is important to be sociable."

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