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Abbas Promises 'Ocean of Peace'


Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas promoted the 2002 Saudi initiative on Thursday in a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. If Israel agrees to the initiative, "We could have a calm Middle East, a calm North Africa and Israel will live in an ocean of peace," he said.(Israel News Faxx note: In the past Arab rantings called for Israelis to be pushed into the (Mediterranean) sea.)

The Saudi initiative promises that Arab and Muslim countries will normalize relations with Israel if Israel gives the PA all land controlled by Jordan and Egypt between 1949 and 1967, releases terrorist prisoners and accepts millions of foreign Arabs as citizens.

Terrorists Seize Jewish Center in Mumbai (Bombay)

By Israel Faxx News Services

A series of major hostage situations played out in India Thursday in the wake of coordinated attacks in which heavily armed terrorists stormed a Jewish outreach center, luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, hospitals, a cinema and a crowded train station, killing at least 125 people, hundreds wounded and between 50 and 200 held captive.

Israel's national emergency service said Thursday it had dispatched a team of doctors and medics to Mumbai and that it was ready to send more aid if the Indian government should require it.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told her Indian counterpart that the two countries should work together against extremism. "Dealing with terrorism must be done jointly and we must improve cooperation on this front," Livni said. "Israel will assist India as much as it wants."

Mumbai is home to some 15 million people and is India's largest city.

Israel's Foreign Ministry early Thursday morning said it was attempting to locate the Israeli nationals missing in Mumbai. Members of the Israeli consulate staff were also conducting searches in Mumbai hospitals for injured or missing Israelis, Israel Radio reported. Mumbai's Chabad House, taken hostage in the early hours of the night, is said to be a popular stop for Israeli tourists.

The rabbi of the Chabad center, Gavriel Holtzberg, reportedly is being held there with his wife, Rivka Holtzberg, and several other Israelis after terrorists stormed Nariman House, a building in the heart of Mumbai's tourist center where the Chabad headquarters is located. The Holtzbergs are unconscious, according to a hostage who escaped.

Rivka Holtzberg's parents, Rabbi Shimon Rozenberg and his wife Yehudit were reportedly flying out to the scene.

Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said later Thursday "We know that there are Israelis, certainly in the Chabad center and very probably in the Trident hotel."

He went on to say that the Israeli Consulate-General in Mumbai did not have a confirmed number of Israeli hostages. He said the Israeli authorities also had no official confirmation that Holtzberg and his wife were among the hostages, but added "it's very probable because he was inside the house and we don't know that he came out of the house."

A policeman told Britain's Sky News the terrorists initially threw grenades into the Chabad center before storming the building. He said the gunmen have grenades, AK-47 assaults rifles and possibly other explosives.

During the initial attack, the Chabad center's cook, Sandra Samuel, managed to escape with the Holtzberg's 1-year-old son, Moshe. "I took the child, I just grabbed the baby and ran out," said Samuel. She said that the rabbi and his wife, along with two other unidentified guests, were alive but unconscious. The boy was unharmed - but his blood-soaked pants spoke of the horrors inside.

Samuel, who was looking after the boy at a nearby police station, said that as she ran out, she saw four people lying on the floor, apparently unconscious.

Samuel said she and Zakir Hussein, 22, the center's caretaker, locked themselves in their first floor room when they saw a gunman running up the stairs. "Israelis and Jews, wherever they are, are under threat," said Ehud Raz, chief security officer at the Israeli consulate in Mumbai. "They are a target."

"Neighbors had tried to protect the house as armed gunmen seized it Wednesday night. They clashed with the gunmen and throwing rocks at them in an effort to drive the militants away," said Puran Doshi, a businessman who lives nearby.

"The crowd eventually retreated under fire from the assailants, who also threw several hand grenades," he said. "They shot indiscriminately into the crowd," Doshi said.

Chabad spokesman in Israel, Moni Ender, said there were eight Israelis inside the house, however, Israel National News reported that "some 15 to 25 Israeli hostages were still being held incommunicado as the siege by Al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorists."

One terrorist holed up at Chabad phoned an Indian television channel to offer talks with the government in exchange release of hostages. He also complained about abuses in Indian Kashmir.

"Ask the government to talk to us and we will release the hostages," said the man, identified by the India TV channel as Imran, speaking in the Urdu language with what sounded like a Kashmiri accent. A spokesmen for the Indian government said India would not negotiate with the terrorists.

A large number of police and commandos were grouped outside the Chabad center, with local media reports claiming security forces were preparing for a raid. The Chabad center was one of several hostage situations unfolding in Mumbai.

A previously unknown group, Deccan Mujahedeen, claimed responsibility for the coordinated assaults. Israeli security officials told WND the attacks bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida ideology and that Taliban elements in Pakistan were being eyed.

Sky News reported that two powerful explosions were heard around midday Jerusalem time on Thursday from the Nariman House building which houses Chabad House.

NDTV reported that Indian security officials believe the terrorists may have infiltrated into the city by sea. There is little regulation in the Bombay Harbor, noted the journalist in his report. Nariman House is located in the southern part of the city, along the water.

Chabad began to express concern for the welfare of the Holtzbergs, its representatives in Mumbai, shortly after the attacks were launched. Holtzberg holds an American passport and his wife is an Israeli citizen from Afula.

"The Israeli Consulate was in touch with Holtzberg, but the line was cut in middle of the conversation," according to the Chabad Web site. "No further contact has since been established."

Members of the Israeli consulate staff are also conducting searches in Mumbai hospitals for injured or missing Israelis, Israel Radio reported. Chabad said its personnel are "working closely with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the U.S. government" to locate missing persons in the area of the Chabad House.

Is Rice Moving to Bind Incoming Israeli PM?

By WorldNetDaily

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been collecting notes and documents from Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams to ensure the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama will not need to start negotiations here from scratch, WND has learned.

Rice's State Department is working to assemble the notes and to outline issues on which both sides are close to an agreement, according to informed Israeli and Palestinian sources.

With new general Israeli elections scheduled for February, Rice's move could limit the incoming Israeli prime minister, since the Palestinian Authority can point to notes documenting points of agreement by the current Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.

While Olmert's non-finalized decisions during negotiations are not binding for the next prime minister, documents noting agreements during previous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been used – at times as starting points – in subsequent talks.

According to both Israeli and PA sources, American officials took detailed notes of talks at U.S.-brokered negotiations at Camp David in 2000 and then used points of agreement on key issues, such as borders, during the current round of intense Israeli-Palestinian talks, which continue this week.

In Washington Tuesday, Olmert hinted an agreement on some core issues may be forthcoming before he leaves office in February. Olmert resigned amid a corruption scandal that may eventually see him indicted.

Five days after WND broke the story exposing secret Israeli-Palestinian talks aimed at reaching an agreement on core issues, Olmert announced Tuesday that "in principle there is nothing to prevent us from reaching an agreement on the core issues in the near future."

Arab Nations Call for Palestinian Reconciliation

By VOA News

Arab governments are calling on rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to work together toward reconciliation. Arab foreign ministers maintained their neutrality during a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, aimed at resuming dialogue between the Palestinian groups.

The two sides have been deeply divided since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007, leaving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party with authority only in the West Bank.

Abbas has threatened to call elections early next year if the Palestinian factions do not reconcile by then. Hamas has rejected the plan, saying Abbas has no power to dissolve the current parliament in which Hamas has a large majority.

The Arab ministers said the Palestinian president should remain in power until a deal is reached. The group also said Arab governments would send food and medicine into the Gaza Strip, which has been blockaded by Israel following recent cross-border rocket attacks and clashes.

Pope Plans to Visit Israel in May


Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in May following a written invitation by President Shimon Peres. The visit would be the third trip by a pope to Israel, and Pope Benedict's first journey to Israel.

Relations between Israel and the Vatican turned chilly several weeks ago when Jewish leaders objected to Pope Benedict's plans to canonize Pope Pius. They charged that Pius did not act to save Jews during the Holocaust and did not try to campaign against the extermination of Jews, nor did he condemn Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) of Nov. 1938, in which 92 Jews were murdered and over 200 synagogues were destroyed in Nazi Germany.

In 1940, when the Land of Israel's Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog asked for Papal intervention against the deportation of Spanish and Lithuanian Jews to Germany, there was no response.

Adding to the tension was a statement by a Jesuit priest, Peter Gumpel that the pope would not visit Israel until the Yad Vashem Memorial Holocaust Museum removes captions under two pictures of Pope Pius that states he was silent during the Holocaust.

A Vatican spokesman stated that the captions would not prevent the pope from visiting Israel. It is unclear whether the pope will go to Yad Vashem, a traditional stop for every visiting foreign dignitary to Israel. It is also possible that the pope may only visit the monuments at Yad Vashem, and refrain from visiting the actual museum.

The papal visit to the Palestinian Authority is expected to renew the Vatican's relationship with the Muslim world, which has soured in light of Benedict's citation of an anti-Muslim text.

Dozens of sheiks and other Muslims marched in Hebron last Wednesday to protest recent remarks that were made by Pope Benedict XVI that some have interpreted as insulting to Islam.

Benedict had quoted a medieval text which called the teachings of Muhammad "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith." Although the Pope later explained that the quote does not reflect his personal views, Muslims worldwide staged protests and attacked Christian churches.

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