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Beaming Up a 60th Anniversary Communications Satellite


Israel's latest satellite will carry the 60th anniversary logo of the Jewish State when it is launched into orbit in March. The satellite, to be launched from a site in Kazakhstan, is produced by the Israel Aerospace Industries. Originally named the Amos-3,

The Amos-60 is the next generation of communication satellite, designed to replace its predecessor, Amos-1. Its operations are expected to cover the Middle East, Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

Israeli Cabinet Ministers Call for Assassination of Hizbullah Leader Nasrallah

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Several Israel Cabinet ministers threatened the targeting of the leader of the Islamic terrorist group Hizbullah in Lebanon. The threats against Hassan Nasrallah came in response to a fiery speech that infuriated Israeli officials.

"Nasrallah is a madman, and I do not know why he is still breathing," said Minister Yitzhak Cohen. He said Nasrallah should have been killed a long time ago because he is a "dangerous enemy" of the State of Israel. Cohen was responding to a gloating speech by Nasrallah on Saturday in Beirut, his first public appearance in nearly a year.

Nasrallah told tens of thousands of supporters that Hizbullah is holding body parts of Israeli soldiers left behind in the Lebanon War in 2006, including heads, hands and legs.

"I tell the Israelis, we have the heads of your soldiers, we have hands, we have legs… there is even a near-complete body, a half or three-quarters of a body from head to chest to the torso," he claimed in remarks aimed at families of the fallen soldiers.

The claim touches on an extremely sensitive point in Jewish law which requires burial of every available part of a Jewish body, including the blood, in respect for the receptacle that formerly hosted a holy soul. The ZAKA organization sends volunteers to the site of every fatality, including those of the most difficult combat or terrorist situations to recover the body parts and as much of the blood as possible in order to perform this commandment.

The speech appeared aimed at pressuring Israel to accept a prisoner exchange. But Cabinet Minister Meir Sheetrit said Nasrallah had crossed all red lines, and Israel would not respond to what he described as "inhumane" demands. "Israel should not negotiate with Nasrallah," Sheetrit said. "It should liquidate him."

Israel confirmed that the body parts of some Israeli soldiers were left behind in Lebanon. But its biggest concern is winning the release of two soldiers whose kidnapping by Hizbullah sparked the war. It is not known if the soldiers are alive or dead, and Nasrallah kept Israel guessing: He did not say a word about their fate.

Nasrallah went into hiding almost immediately after the war ended, fearing Israel's announced intentions to kill him.

UN Condemns Israel's Tightening of Sanctions on Gaza

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Gaza Strip's only power plant has shut down due to an Israeli border closure that is blocking fuel deliveries. The generating station's shutdown late Sunday plunged large parts of the Gaza territory and many of its one1.5 million people into darkness.

The tightening siege on Gaza has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished Palestinian territory. Tens of thousands of people in Gaza are without electricity after Israel closed its borders in response to Palestinian rocket attacks. Officials at the Gaza power plant say it cannot operate because fuel shipments have not arrived and there are no reserves. The plant supplies about a third of the electricity to Gaza, with the remainder coming from Israel and Egypt.

Israel has tightened sanctions on Gaza since June, when the Islamic terrorist group Hamas seized control of the territory, routing the Fatah forces of western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The United Nations condemned the Israeli measures, saying they are leading to a humanitarian crisis among Gaza's 1.5 million residents. John Ging is a senior U.N. official in Gaza. "Everything is in short supply, all reserves have run out, and we are living here day to day."

Israel closed its border crossings with Gaza on Friday, after Hamas fired more than 100 rockets at the Jewish state in three days. Hamas stepped up attacks in response to Israeli raids in Gaza that are taking a heavy toll on Palestinian fighters.

Israeli analyst Jonathan Fighel said the sanctions on Gaza are justified. "The fact that a sovereign country is being attacked by missiles, this is totally inconceivable and totally unacceptable and the leadership of the Palestinian terror organizations have to pay a price," Fighel said.

Israel said it would ease the closure when the rocket attacks stop. But Hamas is defiant. It issued a statement saying that Israeli sanctions would not weaken "the determination and steadfastness" of the Palestinian people."

The news coming out of Gaza depicts a populace living in darkness and cold and blaming Israel. Reporters even claim that the dead can no longer be buried properly because there are no shrouds, and that bodies are being wrapped in flags instead. The IDF says, however, that this is media spin; a deliberate manipulation by the Hamas government to make Israel look as bad as possible.

"Gaza City was plunged into darkness after the plant's turbines stopped," the BBC reported. "Israel's closure of border crossings amid continued rocket fire from Gaza has brought the delivery of almost all supplies, including fuel, to a halt… The UN says Gaza's 1.5m inhabitants face serious hardship… Reports from Gaza say people are trying to stock up on candles and batteries, as well as basic foodstuffs… A number of residents began a candle-lit march through Gaza City after the blackout."

Israeli sources said this kind of coverage is exactly what the Gaza leadership wants. "There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza," a security source told Ynet Sunday evening. "In the past, there have already been situations in which the [electricity] transformers did not work. As for food and other supplies, the Palestinians have a stock that will last them for the next few days and beyond. This is an image of a crisis created by Hamas."

The source noted that the electricity transformers in Gaza were bombed after the abduction of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, too, yet life went on as usual there because Israel continued supplying Gaza with electricity. Israel continues to supply Gaza with 70 percent of its power, the source said, adding: "We have not cut electricity and do not intend to at this moment. The Palestinians are the ones cutting off electricity for a few hours and trying to create a crisis."

Pardoned Terrorists Planning Suicide Attacks


The Israeli army has specific information that members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization granted amnesty this summer by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are planning suicide bombings inside Israel, WND has learned.

Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces raided the northern West Bank city of Nablus, the stronghold of Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, in an attempt to arrest a Brigades cell there actively planning terror attacks, according to IDF sources.

Three of four members of a Brigades terror cell surrounded by the army were granted amnesty by Olmert last June as a gesture to bolster Abbas' Fatah organization. The cell, among other things, was planning suicide attacks and shootings against Israel, sources said.

A Brigades leader – Ahmed Senakre, the brother of the group's West Bank chief – was killed during the operation when he tried to escape the IDF siege. The three others were arrested.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's military wing, is listed by the State Department as a terror group. It took responsibility, along with the Islamic Jihad terror organization, for every suicide bombing in Israel in 2005 and 2006 and for thousands of shootings and rocket attacks.

Olmert granted amnesty to 178 Brigades members and was considering pardoning hundreds more on condition the terrorists disarm, refrain from terror activities and restrict their movements to the area in which they reside for three months. Many Brigades leaders openly defied the conditions of their amnesty by publicly retaining their weapons and committing scores of attacks.

Saturday's IDF operation came after WND reported the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades announced it would attempt a series of suicide bombings inside Israel. "The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades calls on its members in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to launch a series of martyrdom bombing attacks, shooting attacks and rocket attacks in response to the Zionist escalation in Gaza," said an official Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades pamphlet distributed in the West Bank and obtained by WND.

"The military wing of Fatah stays loyal to Fatah strategy and the way of Abu Amar (Yasir Arafat). We call on our brothers to take their weapons and plan attacks and attack every Israeli target. ... Al Aqsa threatens our reaction will come very soon in the middle of your (Israeli) cities," stated the pamphlet.

In an interview, Abu Oudai, a chief of the Brigades in the northern West Bank, told WND the pamphlet addresses his group's objectives. "The second intifada is entering a new cycle," said Abu Oudai. "We are proud to declare that on its 43rd anniversary Fatah is back to leading armed struggle. The Israelis will learn in the coming days what are our capabilities."

The terror leader claimed his group's planned attacks were in response to Israeli "atrocities" in the Gaza Strip, referring to Israeli anti-terror efforts the past few days to combat escalated rocket fire from Gaza into nearby Jewish communities.

Saudi Prince: If Israel Quits Arab Land, It Could Join Arab World

By Reuters

A senior Saudi royal has offered Israel a vision of broad cooperation with the Arab world and people-to-people contacts if it signs a peace treaty and withdraws from all occupied Arab territories.

In an interview with Reuters, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former ambassador to the United States and Britain and adviser to King Abdullah, said Israel and the Arabs could cooperate in many areas including water, agriculture, science and education.

Asked what message he wanted to send to the Israeli public, he said: "The Arab world, by the Arab peace initiative, has crossed the Rubicon from hostility towards Israel to peace with Israel and has extended the hand of peace to Israel, and we await the Israelis picking up our hand and joining us in what inevitably will be beneficial for Israel and for the Arab world."

The 22-nation Arab League revived at a Riyadh summit last year a Saudi peace plan first adopted in 2002 offering Israel full normalization of relations in return for full withdrawal from occupied Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese land.

Israel shunned the offer then, at the height of a violent Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But it has expressed more interest since the United States launched a new drive for Israeli-Palestinian peace at Annapolis, Md., last November, aiming for an agreement this year.

Prince Turki, who was previously head of Saudi intelligence, said that if Israel accepted the Arab League plan and signed a comprehensive peace, "one can imagine the integration of Israel into the Arab geographical entity. One can imagine not just economic, political and diplomatic relations between Arabs and Israelis but also issues of education, scientific research, combating mutual threats to the inhabitants of this vast geographic area."

His comments, on the sidelines of a conference on the Middle East and Europe staged by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank, were some of the most far-reaching addressed to Israelis by a senior figure from Saudi Arabia.

The desert kingdom, home to Islam's holiest shrines, has no official relations with Israel, although both are key allies of the United States in the region. "Exchange visits by people of both Israel and the rest of the Arab countries would take place," Prince Turki said. "We will start thinking of Israelis as Arab Jews rather than simply as Israelis," noting that many Arabs historically saw Israel as a European entity imposed on Arab land after World War Two.

Prince Turki, brother of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, holds no official position now but heads the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. He said Israel could expect some benefits on the way to signing a treaty and making a full withdrawal, noting that after the 1993 Oslo interim accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, regional cooperation had begun and Israel had achieved representation in several Arab states.

Rome's Jewish Vendors of Souvenirs Protest Against Their Expulsion from Vatican


Eleven Jewish souvenir sellers staged a small demonstration on the border between Rome and the Vatican State recently in protest against their expulsion from St Peter's Square after many centuries.

Waving an Israeli flag and some small banners, the street vendors asked to be again allowed to sell their mementos within the territory of the Holy See. After negotiations with the Italian and the Vatican police, three of the vendors decided to picket the entrance to St Peter's Square for a few hours.

Of the existing 113 licenses that allow souvenir selling in Rome, 112 belong to Jewish vendors. The profession dates back dates to the pontificate of Paul IV (1555-1559). While confining the Jews to the Rome ghetto, the pontiff allowed them to exercise minor street trades.

When Italy unified in 1870 at the expenses of the Pope's temporal power on Rome, Jews turned into souvenir sellers after obtaining ad hoc licenses from the Italian civil authorities, while some were granted such right directly from the Vatican authorities.

The "urtisti" – literally those who bump into the tourists -, deal in small plaster statues, crucifixes, rosaries and pictures of saints and Popes still nowadays. Until December 2007, the Jewish sellers were allowed to work on the entire territory of Rome, and part of them directly on St Peter's Square.

A week ago however, the Vatican City governor, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, banned all traders from the Baroque Bernini colonnade, upsetting the Jewish sellers who claim to have been licensed by a Pope many hundreds of years before.

The city's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, is reportedly backing the "urtisti." Around 15,000 Jews live in Rome.

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