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Jerusalem Snowed In


For the first time this year, snow fell in Jerusalem, the Galilee and Judea/Samaria. Many Jerusalem schools and offices closed due to the heavy snowfall.

Snow-removing vehicles cleared many main arteries in the capital, but motorists have followed the municipality's request and are largely staying off the roads. The main Highway 60 from Jerusalem northward to Shilo, with many curves and hilly sections, is closed to traffic; snow there has reached heights of up to 20 centimeters (8 inches).

Israeli War Commission Finds 2006 Lebanon War Marked by Failure

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

A government-appointed commission in Israel said Wednesday that there were grave failings by Israel's leaders during the 2006 war in Lebanon, but the commission avoided direct criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The release of the final Winograd Commission 500-page report on what has come to be known in Israel as the 2nd Lebanon War has been anticipated for months. Retired judge Eliyahu Winograd said his commission found the war was marked by failures, shortcomings and missed opportunities.

"To offer a general summing up, Israel lost an important opportunity. We went to war on our own initiative, it was a long war and it ended without a clear victory in terms of the military objectives. An organization of just a few thousand troops [Hizbullah] managed to hold out against an army that benefited from absolute air supremacy, and major benefits on the technological level," he said.

The conflict got started in July 2006, when Hizbullah terrorists kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid from Lebanon. Israel began a massive bombing campaign in southern Lebanon, but waited until the final days of the conflict before it launched a major ground offensive that failed to push Hizbullah out of southern Lebanon before a U.N.-mediated cease-fire went into effect.

Following the publication of an interim report, Israel's Defense Forces chief of staff was forced to resign. The country's defense minister, former Labor Party leader Amir Peretz, was also discredited and lost the leadership of his party to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is now Israel's defense minister.

The Winograd report did not specifically criticize Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying he acted on an honest assessment of what he thought was in the interests of Israel. Aides to the prime minister say he has been absolved by the commission's findings and that his fragile coalition government will survive.

Hebrew University Politics Prof. Reuvan Hazen said that is probably an accurate assessment for the time being." The current government, made up of four parties that are the majority coalition, none of them want early elections. Three of them are hemorrhaging in the polls and one of them might get the same number of seats it received in the last elections. So nobody wants to go."

A number of soldiers who fought in the war, and families of soldiers who lost their lives in the conflict, said they would step up protests calling for Olmert to resign.

Hazen said if the protests take hold, Olmert could find himself in political trouble, but nothing would happen quickly. "What could happen is that the people of Israel will take this report so badly that you will see protests that will grow in number and in frequency and that will put pressure either on the Kadima Party to ditch Olmert, or on the Labor Party to pull out of the coalition. But that is at least days if not weeks down the road."

The military said 159 Israelis were killed in the war - mostly soldiers and most of those who died were killed in the final ground offensive of the conflict. About 1,200 Lebanese were killed - mostly civilians, although Israeli officials say hundreds of Hizbullah fighters also died, and that Hizbullah was significantly weakened as a result of the war.

In a statement after the commission's findings were made public, Olmert said he would act immediately to implement the recommendations of the commission to improve the readiness of Israel's armed forces.

Ahmadinejad to West: Accept Israel's 'Imminent Collapse'

By DPA and Ha'aretz

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the West Wednesday to acknowledge Israel's "imminent collapse."

Speaking to a crowd on a visit to the southern port of Bushehr, where Iran's first light-water nuclear power plant is being built by Russia, Ahmadinejad further incited his listeners to "stop supporting the Zionists, as [their] regime reached its final stage. Accept that the life of Zionists will sooner or later come to an end," the Iranian president said.

He added, "What we have right now is the last chapter [of Israeli atrocities] which the Palestinians and regional nations will confront and eventually turn in Palestine's favor."

Iran does not acknowledge Israel and Ahmadinejad has in the past sparked international outcry by referring to the systematic murder of six million Jews in World War II as a "myth" and calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Iran is currently also mediating in the crisis over the Gaza Strip, where Israel has imposed a blockade on border crossings into the coastal territory, barring the entry of supplies into the already impoverished area. Last week, Palestinian terrorists blew holes in the barrier separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt, prompting hundreds of thousands of Gazans to pour into Egypt in search of supplies.

Ahmadinejad also urged the Western powers to help build nuclear power plants in his country saying it will be too late if they do not decide to do so immediately. "If you will not come, this nation will build nuclear plants based on its own resources and when you come some four years later it will reject your request and not then give you any opportunity.

"I am addressing leaders of two or three powers; do you remember I sent you message and told you to stop be stubborn? If you think that you can block the movement of Iranian nation, you are wrong," the Iranian president continued.

Also on Wednesday Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization told reporters the first Iranian-made light-water 360 megawatt nuclear power plant would go operational in 2016 in the southwestern Iranian town of Darkhovin. The official also said that the Bushehr plant would go on test operation in October, though its precision instruments have yet to be delivered.

The United Nations Security Council has been trying to pressure Iran to freeze uranium enrichment, but it has repeatedly refused, and officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency have privately said Tehran is expanding the program.

The Security Council is considering a new draft resolution that calls for additional sanctions against Iran, including bans on travel. Two sets of sanctions have already been imposed on Iran for refusing to halt enrichment.

The five veto-wielding members of the council - the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia - along with Germany, agreed last week on the basic terms of the new resolution. Diplomats have said the full, 15-nation Security Council will likely approve it next month.

Iran insists its enrichment activities are intended only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity, but the U.S. and others suspect Tehran's real aim is to produce nuclear bombs.

A U.S. intelligence report released last month, however, concluded Tehran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and had not resumed it since. Iranian officials have said they plan to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear energy in the next two decades.

'Intimidation Forces' Work to Divide Jerusalem


The Palestinian Authority recently established an intelligence apparatus in Jerusalem to clamp down on Israeli Arabs selling property to Jews in strategic areas of the city, according to informed security sources speaking to WND.

Palestinians seek to create a capital in eastern sections of Jerusalem. The area has large Arab neighborhoods, a significant Jewish population and sites holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Following U.S.-backed negotiations started at November's Annapolis conference, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to aim at creating a Palestinian state by the end of the year. Olmert is widely expected to attempt an evacuation of eastern sections of Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank, handing the territories to the Palestinians.

Israel recaptured eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount – Judaism's holiest site – from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War. About 231,000 Arabs live in Jerusalem, mostly in eastern neighborhoods with tens of thousands thought to be living illegally without building permits. The city has an estimated total population of 724,000, with a Jewish majority.

A contingent of Jewish groups, including an organization called Ateret Kohanim, are working to strengthen the Jewish presence in Jerusalem by purchasing properties from Arabs, primarily in eastern neighborhoods, including in Jerusalem's Old City. Some of the purchased properties were formerly Jewish until Jews fled during Arab riots in the early 1900s.

According to security sources, the PA's Preventative Security Services in recent months re-established an intelligence arm in Jerusalem originally formed in the 1990s by the late Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat to work at frustrating Jewish attempts at purchasing property from Arabs.

The intelligence arm consists of activists who work in Jerusalem to identify Israeli Arabs willing to sell land to Jews, the sources said. A potential Arab seller is warned against doing business with Jewish groups. The sources did not specify particular measures the PA might take against any Arabs working to sell property to Jews, but in the past, cases have been made public in which Arabs have been killed or tortured for such activity.

According to security sources, to ensure against land sales, the PA put together a list of wealthy Palestinian and Arab donors willing to purchase property from Jerusalem Arabs who must sell their land due to financial desperation.

The PA's purported move to clamp down on Arab sales to Jews in Jerusalem follows recent statements by top Israeli officials, including Vice Premier Haim Ramon, about conceding Jerusalem.

Ramon, a top Olmert deputy, stated that Israel "must" give up sections of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian state, even conceding the Palestinians can rename Jerusalem "to whatever they want."

"We must come today and say, friends, the Jewish neighborhoods, including Har Homa, will remain under Israeli sovereignty, and the Arab neighborhoods will be the Palestinian capital, which they will call Jerusalem or whatever they want," said Ramon during an interview last month.

Stances held by Ramon, a ranking member of Olmert's Kadima party, are largely considered to be reflective of Israeli government policy.

Ramon said that due to the city's demographics, Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem "should not be under Israeli sovereignty, because they pose a threat to Jerusalem being the capital of a Jewish Israel." He listed population statistics as the reason Olmert's government finds it necessary to split Jerusalem.

Study: Cracks Spread in Berlin Holocaust Memorial

By Reuters

The Holocaust memorial in Berlin is showing signs of serious wear and tear just three years after its completion, with cracks in more than half of its concrete blocks, according to a recent study.

Structural engineer Joachim Schulz conducted a survey of the field of blocks located in Berlin's central Mitte district at the end of last year for Germany's Cicero magazine.

Berliner Zeitung daily revealed that since the site's inauguration in 2005 passersby have urinated regularly alongside the 2,711 concrete slabs in complex; 'we have not received hygiene related complaints from visitors,' the memorial's initiator said.

Almost 1,400 of the 2,711 blocks that make up the site are beginning to crack, he said in an interview published in the monthly magazine's latest edition. "Sixty percent of the cracks are minor faults and not really visible but 40 percent are bigger than 0.2 millimeters and that's worrying," said Schulz.

Hindered by design and construction disagreements that attracted global media attention, the memorial was completed in May 2005 at a cost of 27 million Euros ($39.1 million).

The most controversial issue surrounding its design was the role of Degussa - the company that supplied the anti-graffiti paint for the blocks. Construction was briefly halted in late 2003 after it emerged the firm's parent manufactured the poison gas used in Nazi death camps.

Structural damage to the Holocaust memorial, which covers 19,000 square meters (205,000 square feet), was first recorded in January 2006 when 400-450 blocks were showing cracks.

Holocaust Memorial Director Uwe Neumaerker told Reuters that the damage was due to sunlight: "We plan to begin repairs as soon as the temperature rises and the weather dries up, probably at the end of March."

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