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Israeli Shekel to Become Globally Convertible


The shekel's strength has resulted in it becoming one of 17 currencies traded in the global currency market, joining 15 other currencies currently traded.

Shekels will, in the next three months, become available in commercial banks in more than 80 countries around the world. The development is expected to reduce exchange-rate risks faced by Israel's finance sector and improves Israel's standing with credit rating agencies.

Earthquake Measuring 5.3 Damages Temple Mount

By, & Israel Faxx News Services

An earthquake shook Israel at 12:37 p.m. Friday. The only damage reported in Israel was on the Temple Mount, near the Dome of the Rock, and near Shechem (Nablus).

The earthquake measured 5.3 on the Richter scale; its epicenter was located in northeastern Lebanon. Earlier last week an earthquake measuring 4.1 was felt in northern Israel, also originating from Lebanon, near its northern city of Tyre.

A large hole opened up on the Temple Mount during Friday's earthquake, which was soon covered by officials from the Wakf Islamic Authority that administers the mosques built atop Judaism's holiest site.

The only other reported damage in the Holy Land was incurred between Palestinian Authority-controlled Shechem (Nablus) and Jenin, where an old home collapsed, blocking the main road to the village of Khufin. The village is not far from the site of the biblical Joseph's Tomb, which was set ablaze by Muslim vandals last week.

Wakf officials tried to blame Israel for the 6-foot by 5-foot hole, which is about three feet deep, claiming it was caused by Israel, which it accuses of tunneling beneath the Temple Mount. They demanded an end to all Israeli excavations in the area.

Though several excavation projects are taking place around the Western Wall Plaza, none of them entail tunneling past the wall itself and beneath the mount. The Wakf's official position is that there was never a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount and has gone to great efforts to erase archaeological evidence of Judaism's historical ties to the site.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz issued a statement rejecting the Muslim claims. "These are mendacious reports without a grain of truth," he said, adding that work in the Temple Mount compound would be contrary to Jewish law. "Such claims are a desecration and cause hatred and incitement for no reason whatsoever," Rabbi Rabinowitz said. He stressed that work on the Rambam (Mughrabi) Gate ramp to the Temple Mount is vital for the safety of those who visit the Western Wall and called on the authorities to finish the work speedily.

Israel News Faxx correspondent (and this editor's son) Golan Canaan, a resident of Be'er Sheva said, "I felt it while sitting on my couch. It felt like the couch was moving from side to side for a few moments. At first I didn't think it was anything more then the wind, .but then I thought `How could the wind move my whole building?'"

The earthquake was the strongest to rock country in a decade. The trembling lasted for 19 seconds and shook structures in many major towns and cities.

In the face of grim earthquake casualty estimations, police warned that forensic teams are incapable of dealing with large-scale national disaster. The officials asked for $9.8 million to set up national biometric database to simplify the identification process and to equip laboratories.

Despite the recent quakes, experts explain that this does not indicate that a stronger earthquake is expected any time soon. "This does not testify to an increase or a slowdown. In any case, we must take note of the situation, regardless of what happened," Dr. Dr. Ephraim Laor, who headed the steering committee appointed to prepare for earthquakes, told Ynet.

And what is Israel doing in order to prepare for such a quake. According to Laor, almost nothing. "Work has been done, but it was almost stopped completely following the Second Lebanon War. It has hardly been resumed, and I hope now it will be resumed."

The Geophysical Institute of Israel reported that several areas in Israel were prone to earthquakes, including the Great Rift Valley which stretches along the Jordanian border.

One anonymous person sent a message to an area blog that "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is going to show Himself strong in these days-- Where's the God of Elijah? I think He's getting ready to show up!!!

Jerusalem suffered a severe earthquake Jan. 15, 1546: the Dome on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was completely destroyed as were many other buildings. The Dome of the Rock was seriously damaged. Another major quake was the July 11, 1927, earthquake was one of the first earthquakes on the Dead Sea Fault to be recorded by modern seismographic techniques; it reached 6.2 on the Richter scale.

Olmert: Electricity, Fuel Cuts to Gaza Will Continue

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel says it plans to continue crippling sanctions on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, despite international opposition. The announcement was made as three Palestinian gunmen and a civilian were killed in Israeli raids in Gaza.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the reduction of electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza would continue until Palestinian rocket attacks stop. He told the Cabinet a war is going on in southern Israel and that Israel would not ease up on terrorist leaders until life along the Gaza border returns to normal.

Palestinian officials and the European Union have demanded that Israel end the sanctions, describing them as collective punishment.

The Cabinet met as a delegation from the United Nations and United States visited the Israeli border town of Sderot that has been hard hit by Palestinian rockets.

U.N. Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes condemned the rocket attacks, but said people on both sides of the Gaza border are suffering. "The situations are different, completely different. The physical conditions, obviously, in many ways are much worse in Gaza," said Holmes. "But people living under rockets, which they feel are deliberately aimed at civilians, they are obviously going to feel genuine sufferings."

Sen. John Kyl (Ariz.) said the problem of the rockets begins with weapons smuggling from Egypt to Gaza. He said the United States is using aid to Egypt for leverage." The United States Congress has put limitations on the money that the Congress sends to Egypt, limitations which require Egypt to take a stronger position in stopping the smuggling. Clearly the smuggling has not stopped."

Shortly after the delegation left Sderot, a rocket struck a house in the town, causing damage, but no injuries.

Israel's military said its soldiers entered southern Gaza before dawn to combat terrorists who fire rockets and mortars at Israel. Israel also used tanks and aircraft in the fighting, which wounded at least eight Palestinians and one Israeli soldier. Israeli troops detained at least 25 Palestinians during the operation.

Iran Hints It May Help in Mughniyeh Revenge


An Iranian military source hinted Sunday that his country might help avenge the death of a top Hizbullah terrorist. "Hizbullah has many friends," the source told Hizbullah's Al Manar TV.

The chairman of Hizbullah's faction in the Lebanese parliament, Muhammad Raad, also threatened Israel. "The Zionist entity now feels that its end is near and it is acting in hysteria. The Zionist entity tries, through acts like these, to buy time, but this blood that was spilled will only quicken the pace of the Zionist entity's collapse," he boasted.

Lebanese media reported Sunday that Hizbullah terrorist chief Hassan Nasrallah has named a successor to his assassinated operations chief, Mughniyeh. The identity of the new Hizbullah operations chief was not released. Israeli sources speculated it would be one of three candidates: Mughniyeh deputy Talal Hamiyeh; senior "military" officer Fuad Sukur or Ibrahim Akil, who is in charge of Hizbullah activities in southern Lebanon.

Lebanese media refuted the claims, saying none of the three were under consideration.

The British Sunday Times reported Sunday that arch-terrorist Mughniyeh was involved in the rehabilitation of Hizbullah following the Second Lebanon War. Mughniyeh had purchased long-range rockets capable of carrying a chemical warhead and of reaching Tel Aviv for the group, according to the report. In addition, the paper said, Mughniyeh was planning a major attack on Israeli interests as revenge for an IAF airstrike in Syria last year.

Times writers credited Israel with Mughniyeh's killing, saying he was killed by a bomb planted by Israeli agents. Shortly after Mughniyeh's death Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed Mossad head Meir Dagan that he would remain in his position for another year, they said.

The Director of National Intelligence for the United States, Mike McConnell, said Sunday that Hizbullah may have been responsible for the recent killing of Mughniyeh. In an interview with Fox News, McConnell said intelligence officials would continue to investigate the incident to determine who was behind Mughniyeh's death.

Hizbullah blamed Israel for the killing, and has threatened to take revenge on Israelis and Jews worldwide. Hizbullah's talk of revenge is "a serious threat," McConnell said. U.S. officials are working to protect potential Jewish targets as well as vital American interests, he said.

Hizbullah, Israel Forces on Alert for New War


The assassination last week of the Hizbullah terrorist group's chief operations officer prompted Israel to declare high alert status at its embassies and elsewhere. This weekend, the terrorist group also went on high alert in fear of action by the Jewish State.

Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and every Arab terrorist group accused Israeli agents of killing Imad Mughniyeh, the terrorist who planned every attack carried out by Hizbullah terrorists around the world. Jerusalem denied the charge.

According to a report published Saturday in the Lebanese newspaper A-Safir, 50,000 Hizbullah terrorists have been stationed along the border with Israel, and a high alert was declared in southern Lebanon.

Hizbullah also evacuated most of its offices and buildings used for civilian purposes reported A-Safir, fearing "Israeli aggression" in the wake of the assassination.

Various Palestinian Authority terrorist organizations have also gone on high alert status, reported the Hizbullah-linked newspaper Al-Akhbar.

Israel issued a worldwide high alert warning to its embassies and elsewhere around the world after Mughniyeh's boss, chief terrorist Hassan Nasrallah, threatened while eulogizing his top deputy that Israel could now expect "an open war." However, Nasrallah made his threat through a video hookup; he himself has been in hiding since the end of the Second Lebanon War.

Intelligence officials said it was unlikely that Hizbullah would strike directly at Israel, noting that it was not in the organization's best interest to risk another war with the Jewish State while Lebanese politics are still unstable. Presidential elections have been put off repeatedly as the Syrian-backed Hizbullah ministers struggle with the Western-backed government for control of the country.

Nonetheless, the IDF is on alert to spot any attempts by terrorists to infiltrate through Israel's northern border.

In addition, the US embassy in Lebanon has placed its personal on high alert as well, warning staff members not to use their cellular phones and to exercise extreme caution. American citizens were told to maintain constant contact with the embassy.

"Hizbullah has repeatedly blamed Israel for the death of Imad Mughniyeh, thus increasing the danger of its terrorist threats against Israeli targets abroad," warned the Israeli National Security Council Counter-terrorism Bureau.

Israelis abroad were instructed to avoid their usual gathering places and the bureau reiterated its warnings that terrorists are hoping to kidnap Israelis abroad, including business people, "mainly those with ties with Arab or Muslim counterparts."

Other high-profile potential Jewish targets, not necessarily Israeli, were also placed on alert including synagogues, Jewish community centers and offices of Jewish organizations.

Egyptian researcher Majdi Kamal, who recently published a book on senior Hizbullah terrorist Mughniyeh, announced that he believes Mughniyeh's death was staged. Mughniyeh evaded 42 security services in nations worldwide, Kamal pointed out and expressed the belief that it was not logical that Mughniyeh would be killed by something as simple as a car bomb.

"Mughniyeh either died a natural death a while ago, or is still alive," Kamal told Al-Arabiya TV. He pointed out that Mughniyeh was reported dead just one day before the three-year anniversary of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, an outspoken opponent of Syrian intervention in Lebanon.

Whether Hizbullah faked the death in order to throw intelligence agencies off of Mughniyeh's trail or Mughniyeh actually died, Hizbullah chose the timing of the "assassination" in order to ruin Hariri's memorial ceremonies, Kamal contended.

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