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Airline BMI Takes Israel off Maps


Israel Army Radio reports that British airline BMI has removed Israel from the electronic maps displayed to passengers in some of its planes. The report claimed that the reason was to avoid offending Muslim passengers.

Israel does not appear in maps on BMI flights between London and Tel Aviv, and that the pre-independence Arabic name for Haifa appears instead, according to the report. Also, the electronic maps display the distance between the plane and Mecca.

Palestinian Hijacker of Achille Lauro Released from Prison

By Reuters

The leader of the Palestinian terrorists that hijacked the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro in 1985 and killed an American Jewish passenger has been released from prison early, judicial sources said.

Youssef Magied al-Molqui was released from a Palermo prison on Wednesday and a judge had ordered him expelled from Italy, the sources said. Al-Molqui, who is married to an Italian woman, served nearly 24 years of a 30-year sentence handed down by an Italian court after the hijacking. He was released early for good behavior.

During the action, four Palestinians shot dead a U.S. Jew, Leon Klinghoffer, who was in a wheelchair, and threw his body overboard. His corpse washed ashore several weeks later. Al-Molqui was held principally responsible for the murder and is believed to be the last of the four hijackers who was in prison. Klinghoffer's killing was discovered after the hijackers allowed the ship to dock in Egypt and they initially managed to escape.

Later, U.S. fighter jets intercepted an Egyptian plane on which the hijackers were trying to flee and forced it to land in Sicily, where the four hijackers were arrested.

Relations between Italy and the United States nosedived at the time because Italy allowed Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Abbas, who had masterminded the hijacking and who was aboard the Egyptian plane, to escape to then-Yugoslavia.

In 1996, al-Molqui failed to return to prison after a 12-day leave. He was later arrested in Spain. At the time, the United States put a $2 million bounty on his head

Seven Arabs Accused of Planning Terror Attacks


Seven Arab-Israelis, including two minors, were arrested and accused of security violations, including plotting to abduct soldiers and planning massive terror attacks.

The Haifa district prosecutor filed indictment charges against five members of the cell on a series of security violations, including having ties with an enemy during wartime, assisting the enemy during wartime, contact with a foreign agent, and weapons violations. Two minors were also arrested last week for their involvement in the incident. Due to a news embargo, however, permission for publication of the arrests and indictments was only granted Thursday afternoon.

Security forces found nine explosive devices ready for use and computer equipment and files that indicated terrorist activity in the homes of the terror cell members. During questioning, members of the gang admitted to practicing abducting soldiers and planting bombs. Police believe the group planned to start carrying out attacks in the near future.

The indictment states that at the end of December, Abdullah Yunas Harubah from Kfar Marar established ties through the internet with a Gaza resident, who called himself Abu Kassam. The two agreed to `assist' Gaza residents by plotting terror attacks in Israel. Harubah started learning how to make explosive devices and even prepared a remote-control bomb, which he kept in his home.

Harubah maintained a relationship with Sohaib Kabahah of the Wadi Ara town of Barta'a, and the two spoke about their desire to avenge Israel's military activities in Gaza. They discussed forming a terror gang that would carry out their plans. In addition, the two exchanged detailed instructions on how to prepare explosive devices.

According to the indictment, Sohaib Kabahah decided to form a terror group that would execute mass terror strikes against IDF soldiers or other security officers. He recruited Kuteiba Kabahah, Muhammed Kabahah and Ahmed Kabahah. The four acquired weaponry and explosive devices, engaged in physical exercises and selected potential targets.

The cell members allegedly confessed to police after they were caught, and one even led police to the gang's weapons cache. All five of the defendants have entered a "not guilty" plea.

Hamas Army Preparing for New War


The defacto Hamas government in Gaza is re-training its army and changing its tactics in preparation for what it believes will be another war with Israel, according to Iran and Hizbullah are advising Hamas on how to overcome its failures against Israel in the IDF's Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign earlier this year.

Hamas tactics in the war backfired. It told its fighters to dress in civilian clothes as a ploy to raise civilian casualties, but the IDF surprised it by pinpointing its attacks and warning civilians to leave areas before they were bombed.

Hamas has used the ceasefire, which Israel declared on condition that international monitors would be positioned along the Egyptian border to stop smuggling, to bring in advanced weapons through new tunnels that have been built. Two Arab smugglers or workers were killed Thursday morning in a tunnel collapse underneath the border at Rafiah.

The Hamas army now includes anti-aircraft missiles that have been provided by Iran. Israel Air Force planes were equipped with devices to deflect anti-aircraft missiles during Operation Cast Lead, but the newly-smuggled weapons are more advanced.

During the next war, Hamas's army will remain in uniform and will use hit-and-run tactics instead of directly engaging Israeli troops. Hamas has dismissed 40 commanders of its forces, which it is re-building with more discipline. It also is developing improved communications systems to protect senior leaders, many of whom were targeted by Israel.

One tactic that worked to a certain extent was the deployment of its army in schools and hospitals, which also were used as weapons depots, forcing the IDF to delay attacking unless it could be proven beyond a doubt that the facilities no longer were functioning for civilian purposes.

Israel Deems 'Swine Flu' Kosher


Swine flu hasn't skipped the Jewish state. And despite some attempts, neither has its non-kosher name. Deputy health minister, Yakov Litzman, a member of an ultra-religious party, said earlier this week that the name "swine flu" should not be used as it contains the name of the animal banned by Judaism. Instead he said the authorities should call the virus sweeping the globe "Mexican flu."

That, however, did not sit well with either Mexico's ambassador to Israel or the Jewish state's envoy to Mexico. Mexico's ambassador Frederico Salas and the Israeli envoy to Mexico Yosef Livne both lodged official complaints at the foreign ministry on Tuesday protesting at the new term.

"The ambassador (Salas) said he was offended when the deputy health minister called it the Mexican flu," a foreign ministry official told AFP. "Israel has no intention of giving the flu any new names. It was nothing more than a slip of the tongue," the official said.

Eating of pork is prohibited by Judaism, the religion practiced by the majority of Israelis. Islam, adhered to by most of Israel's Arab minority, likewise bans consumption of pork. Israel confirmed on Tuesday that two nationals who recently returned from Mexico had contracted swine flu in the first such cases in the Middle East.

Warsaw Getting Jewish Historical Museum


Construction is expected to begin soon on the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, with completion predicted for 2012.

The cost of the project is PLN 152 million. The museum, to be built on the site of the former Warsaw Jewish ghetto razed by the Nazis during World War 2, was designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamaki. The entrance to the building is meant to symbolize the parting of the Red Sea, and is described as a major architectural challenge.

Museum director Jerzy Halbersztadt told Polish Market Online that the idea is "to fill a void created by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Jewish culture in Poland was almost wiped out. But the point of the museum is to remind visitors of the one thousand years of Jewish life in Poland, the culture and civilization of Polish Jews."

Auschwitz Inmate, 86, Who Survived by Boxing, Dies

By & Ha'aretz

Salamo Arouch, the Jewish boxer who survived Auschwitz through exhibition fights staged by Nazi officers and whose life inspired the 1989 film "Triumph of the Spirit," died on Sunday at the age of 86.

Arouch, born in Saloniki in 1923, began boxing as a child and became the middleweight champion of the Balkans at 17. The Germans captured Saloniki in 1941, and between March and August 1943, some 50,000 of the city's Jews were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Arouch related that at roll call one day, an SS officer asked if any of the prisoners could box. Arouch was pushed from the line by friends who knew of his boxing history. The officer asked him if he were ready to fight right then.

"I was very scared," Arouch said. "I was exhausted from being up all night and not eating, but I said yes." He was taken to his first fight that very night, boxing against another inmate. This was the first of 200 matches. At the end of every fight, he would return to the barracks with his prize - a loaf of bread - and share it with the other prisoners.

The rules were simple, Arouch said: "We fought until one went down or they [the Nazis] were sick of watching. They wouldn't leave until they saw blood." The boxing allowed Arouch to survive until he was transferred to Bergen-Belsen in 1945. There, he worked at slave labor until the camp was liberated.

Saudi Girl, 9, Divorces Husband, 50

By Reuters

A 50-year old Saudi man has agreed to divorce his 9-year-old bride, media reported on Thursday, after the marriage drew international criticism.

The decision, reported by Alwatan and Al-Riyadh, came after months of court hearings, criticism from the UN and an international media frenzy about Saudi Arabia's human rights practices.

"This is a good step and I think the man did it because he was under a lot of pressure from everyone," Wajeha Al-Huaider, founder of the Group for Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia, told Reuters by telephone. Al-Huaider, who campaigned for the child, said she hoped the pressure generated by the case would eventually lead to a law banning child marriages.

The child's mother, who opposed the marriage which took place when the girl was 8 years old, took the case to court last year. The court in the small town of Onaiza upheld the marriage on condition that the husband did not consummate it until the girl reached puberty.

In Saudi Arabia's patriarchal society, which applies an austere version of Sunni Islam, fathers have the right to decide whom their daughters marry. "Islam does not specify an age for the marriage contract. The contract is one thing and the consummation of marriage is another," Ahmed Al Modi, an Islamic scholar and writer, told Reuters.

In the case of the Onaiza child bride he said the judge could not order a divorce because the marriage contract was carried out according to established rules for marriage, which include the approval of the father. "When the child is underage, the father can approve the marriage contract but as soon as the child reaches puberty she can object to the marriage," Al Modi said, emphasizing that it was merely a contract, signed to "secure her future."

He explained that in such cases the child usually remained in her parents' custody and her husband would be able to visit her. But he would not be permitted to live with her or consummate the marriage until she had reached puberty.

Discussion about a legal age for marriage in Saudi Arabia took off after a senior Saudi cleric, Sheikh Mohsen al-Obaikan, was quoted in a local newspaper recently saying that girls under 18 years of age should not be allowed to marry.

Many clerics in Saudi Arabia, including the Kingdom's chief cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh, endorse the practice of young girls marrying. `

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