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Newsletter : 8fax0716.txt

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Syria, Iran Give Hizbullah Radar


Syria and Iran have helped Hizbullah set up advanced radar installations atop Mt. Sannine in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, according to foreign reports.

The mountain, at 2,600 meters above sea level, is an ideal platform for radar coverage of northern Israel. According to Israeli defense analysts, Syria does not need radar within Lebanon to track IAF planes.

The working assumption amongst the defense establishment is that the radar could be used in unison with anti-aircraft missiles supplied by Damascus or Tehran. It is known that Hizbullah is making efforts to counter IAF strikes in the event of another war.

USA May Ban Israeli Jets from American Airspace

By Ha'aretz

Israel's Civil Aviation Authority said the United States could curtail the activities of Israeli airlines in the U.S. after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration inspects Israel's aviation sector next week. Concerns have also been raised over a possible blow to Israel's standing in the international aviation sector.

The FAA inspection will last four days and examine the flight-safety performance of the Civil Aviation Authority, one Israeli airline, and Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The Civil Aviation Authority will be the main focus. Inspectors will see if the authority appropriately regulates flight safety, including planes' technical levels, their maintenance and pilots' skills. The FAA hopes to avoid accidents at U.S. airports involving Israeli airlines. If the inspectors find local safety levels to be inadequate, the FAA could limit or altogether block landings of Israeli airlines in the United States.

The public committee appointed to examine air safety in Israel, headed by a former Israel Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amos Lapidot, published dire findings last year. The Lapidot Committee pointed to a number of serious problems in Israeli aviation; it particularly criticized the establishment of a new, more powerful Civil Aviation Authority to regulate the sector.

The committee's report cited "the Civil Aviation Authority's very inadequate performance, anachronistic and irrelevant aviation law, and haphazard and insufficient ordinances." The report found that Ben-Gurion Airport suffers from flaws and limitations. It also warned that the joint airspace used by both military and civil aviation is "very crowded, and not appropriately defined."

Lapidot resigned more than a month ago as head of the joint transportation and defense ministry committee established after the Lapidot panel published its findings.

Lapidot said that not enough is being done to implement his recommendations on the issue. Brig. Gen. Israel Shafir has been appointed by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz to replace Lapidot to head the committee. Transportation Ministry Director General Gideon Siterman has ordered that efforts to promote aviation safety continue.

Hamas Using Gush Katif Synagogues to Train Terrorists


One of the most visible conflicts in public opinion prior to the Gaza Strip pullout in August 2005 dealt with the issue of public structures following the evacuation of settlers from Gush Katif and the northern West Bank.

Many asserted that the buildings must be destroyed in order to ensure that they would not be used by terrorist organizations in the future. The fate of many of the area's synagogues was also discussed at that time.

In July 2004 the government had already reached the decision to disengage Gaza and to demolish the public buildings there, without exception.

Time and again, the government bombarded the High Court of Justice explaining why the judges must not be permitted to interfere in the decision to demolish the synagogues. However, at some point, the tables were turned. Then-Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Silvan Shalom, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Matan Vilnai suddenly opposed the decision. The ministers started raising creative ideas to allow the synagogues to stay standing.

The final decision was received in September 2005, following the residents' evacuation and a day before the IDF's definitive pullout from the Gaza Strip. Despite the objection, the government decided to leave public buildings, kindergartens, libraries, schools and other structures whole for the benefit of the Palestinian population. The synagogues were left untouched due to the problematic nature of demolishing holy places.

Recently, terrorist organizations and most notably, Hamas have begun using these buildings for training purposes. Several videos filmed and produced by various terror organizations present gunmen training at the sites of public buildings once used in Gush Katif, including synagogues and schools.

One of the structures identifiable in the short films in the Atzmona synagogue in which the terrorists train for different scenarios with live ammunition. Aside from Hamas, the Islamic Jihad also trains at the Jewish holy site.

The buildings serve as scenery for kidnapping scenarios and urban warfare including the invasion and "purification" of buildings. The organizations' members also practice Krav Maga. The drills are conducted in and outside of the buildings, and damage is visible to the structures. The gunmen practice various maneuvers using light weaponry and grenades, light and heavy machine guns and antitank missiles.

The mere existence of the buildings and their accessibility greatly contribute to the terrorist organizations. The structures are abandoned and isolated and far from the Palestinian civilian population.

If not for these buildings, the terrorists would have to construct buildings and special training areas for these purposes, just like the IDF does in order to conduct counter-terrorism drills. They would have to evacuate an entire neighborhood from its Palestinians inhabitants in order to establish a similar area.

Peres Pardons Kuntar, Says 'No Forgiveness in My Decision'

By Ha'aretz

President Shimon Peres on Tuesday pardoned the notorious Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, ahead of his release as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hizbullah scheduled for Wednesday.

Kuntar, who has been serving multiple life sentences in Israel, was convicted of murdering four Israelis in a 1979 terror attack in Nahariya. Kuntar and four Hizbullah fighters imprisoned in Israel will be transferred to Lebanon in exchange for two Israel Defense Forces reservists, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, whom Hizbullah abducted in July 2006.

In the pardon letter submitted to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Peres wrote that "I made this difficult decision after speaking with the Shahar, Keren and Haran families - the families of the victims of the despicable murderer Samir Kuntar. I, along with all of Israel, feel their pain. A bitter unbearable pain." Peres went on to say "in this decision there is no forgiveness or absolution for the murderer's heinous actions. I will not forget, and I won't forgive."

The Nazareth District Court ruled on Tuesday to pardon and release three of the four Hizbullah fighters set to be returned to Lebanon within the framework of the prisoner exchange Wednesday.

The three stood trial in Israeli criminal courts over membership in a terrorist organization, murder, attempted murder and weapons-related crimes during the Second Lebanon War. They, along with a fourth Hizbullah fighter, were transferred to the Hadarim Prison earlier this week, where Samir Kuntar is held.

Earlier Tuesday, the cabinet gave its final approval for the return of five Lebanese prisoners and the bodies of 199 militants to Hizbullah in exchange for Goldwasser and Regev. The ruling was part of the approved exchange deal, which requires the courts to pardon the prisoners prior to their release and transfer to Lebanon.

The court pardoned the prisoners after the Northern District prosecution submitted a request asking for the release of the three, Maher Kurani, Mohammed Sarur and Hussein Suleiman, so that they could be transferred to Lebanon on Wednesday in accordance with the finalized details of the deal.

According to the prosecution's request, "the execution of the deal is expected to take place in a multi-level complex manner, and could very well be postponed, deferred or canceled due to various reasons at any stage. Only if all the conditions are met... will the prisoners be transferred to Red Cross representatives in Lebanon. Therefore, we ask the court to approve their release only if the conditions are met."

Suleiman was involved in the cross-border raid in which the IDF reservists, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were kidnapped, sparking the 34-day Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hizbullah. His task was to ward off any Israeli attempts to rescue the hostages. Sarur was stationed as a fighter in Galilee village Aita al-Shaab, where he was supposed to ambush IDF troops. Kurani took part in an ambush west of the town of Shihin. The three prisoners declined defense in their trials and wrote to the court that their fate would only be decided in a prisoner exchange deal.

The exchange deal was ratified by the cabinet with a majority vote of 22 ministers in favor and three opposed. A majority approval had been expected, despite Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's pronouncement Monday that Hizbullah had handed over an "absolutely unsatisfactory" report on its efforts to discover the fate Israeli navigator Ron Arad, who disappeared in Lebanon 22 years ago.

Israel had demanded the Arad report as part of the exchange deal, but government officials said it would not be a deal-breaker.

The cabinet had met for the special session to discuss Hizbullah's report on its efforts to determine Arad's fate. The ministers were briefed on its assessment following deliberations by the heads of the country's intelligence organizations.

The Prime Minister's Office said following the meeting that the cabinet decided to reject the Hizbullah report. According to a source in Ehud Olmert's entourage to Paris, the result of the cabinet's final vote on the prisoner exchange was to be based on what it heard in the briefing.

But the director of the Rosh Hanikra compound where Israel is to receive Goldwasser and Regev said that military and other preparations for the exchange had begun at the site early on Tuesday, long before the cabinet ratified the deal.

Former IDF chief rabbi Israel Weiss, who took part in a 2002 prisoner exchange in which Hizbullah returned the bodies of three IDF soldiers as well as captive civilian Elhanan Tennenbaum, said that the first task of examining the bodies would be to make a positive identification. Weiss told Army Radio that it would also be possible to determine when the soldiers died.

The Goldwasser and Regev families renewed their campaign this week to convince cabinet ministers to support the prisoner swap with Hizbullah, fearing that despite the cabinet's approval of the deal on June 29; last-minute problems might pop up. In particular, the families worried that criticism of Hizbullah's report on Arad could provide an excuse for cancelling the deal.

Greece May Have Helped Israel with Missiles


Foreign reports claim that a recent Israel Air Force exercise over the Mediterranean had an added, more subtle dimension. According to the reports, the exercise studied how Israeli strike planes could penetrate the Russian-made S-300 air-defense missile system.

The S-300 is operated by Greece's Royal Hellenic Army, which deploys it on the southern Greek island of Crete. Allegedly, Greece cooperated with the IAF during the exercise, which allowed the air force to study how to jam, evade and defeat the system.

The S-300 is an advanced generation air-defense missile system which can track 100 targets and engage 12 simultaneously. Iran has purchased at least five such systems at a cost of more than $500 million, according to Russian industry sources. Some sources say the Iranians are getting a newer generation of the system than the Greeks have.

Obama Fuming over Muslim White House Terror Cartoon


A satirical cartoon in the widely respected New Yorker magazine and depicting Muslim terror in the White House has set off furious condemnation by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama. Obama is a Christian but was raised by a Muslim father and has been fighting a smear campaign claiming he is a Muslim.

The cartoon shows Obama wearing a Muslim turban and robe with his wife holding a rifle, both of them standing in the White House with an American flag burning under a picture of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The cartoon appears on the magazine cover under the title "The Politics of Fear. New Yorker said the cartoon was meant to make fun of opponents who have tried to show Obama as a secret Muslim. "Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover," explained New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Obama's spokesman said, "Most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive, and we agree."

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