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PA Blocks Dead Sea from 7 Wonders of the World Contest


The Palestinian Authority has refused to nominate the Dead Sea for a worldwide contest to select the new seven natural wonders of the world, and as a result the famous salty sea will probably be disqualified from the contest next week.

The Dead Sea is ranked number six in voting in the "Lakes, Rivers and Waterfalls" category, which would guarantee it a spot in the next round. But in order to advance, the PA must join Israel and Jordan in forming a committee, which it refuses to do.

Systems in Israel's F-15 Jets Upgraded for Long Distance Attacks


The Israel Air Force's F-15 fleet is undergoing an upgrade, with systems that make it better equipped for complex long distance attack scenarios. The systems are being installed in both the F-15 and the F-15I -- a model of the F-15 that was developed by its U.S. manufacturer specifically for the IAF.

According to IDF journal BaMachaneh, the F-15I model is currently being fitted with two new systems – one called "Barad Pelada" ("Steel Hail"), and another named Lightning. The Barad Pelada advanced weapons system has been operational in the IAF's F-16s for almost four years, but had to be modified in order to fit the F-15.

Barad Pelada is an advanced Israeli armament that operates like a smart bomb. "The system is unique in that it is able to plan the bombing in an accurate way by identifying the target from above," a knowledgeable source in the IAF explained. "After the identification, the system carries out guidance to the target and only then is impact made."

The Lightning advanced attack system has also been in use in the IAF's other jets. Until now, the F-15I jets had to rely on the older Inbar system, which used to be fitted in all of the IAF's jets but was gradually phased out.

The Inbar system is capable of providing an operational solution in some ranges, but other attack scenarios require advanced systems like the Lightning, IAF sources said. "The need for the new system led to an accelerated procedure of development of advanced means," a source in the IAF's Weapons Department explained. "Once the testing at the Flight Experiment Center is finished, we will complete the system's integration in the aircraft."

For the time being, however, the F-15I jets will not part with the older Inbar systems. "From now on, the aircraft will enjoy a combination of both attack systems and will enjoy a meaningful advantage in their operational activity," the sources said.

The F-15 jets, meanwhile, recently received a new weapon system named "Barad Kaved" ("Heavy Hail") and used it for the first time during operation "Cast Lead" in Gaza in early 2009. IAF sources said the use was a success. The F-15 fighters used Barad Kaved in attacks with zero malfunctions, and "we are very pleased with its performance in the operation," the sources said.

Israel Considers Compromise on Settlement Freeze

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel is considering a compromise with the United States on the thorny issue of Jewish settlements. Israel's Cabinet discussed the possibility of a partial freeze on construction in Jewish settlements at its weekly meeting.

Israel has been seeking a compromise, following repeated demands by the United States to halt settlement expansion as required by the internationally backed "Roadmap" peace plan. The issue will top the agenda when Defense Minister Ehud Barak visits the U.S. this week.

Barak said he will discuss a wide range of issues with American officials, including resuming peace talks with the Palestinians and a comprehensive peace with the Arab states. But the Palestinians are refusing to return to the negotiating table until Israel agrees to a settlement freeze.

Barak would neither confirm nor deny a report in Yediot Acharonot that he would propose a three-month halt to construction starts in West Bank settlements, but allow building already underway to continue. "The matter mentioned in the headlines has not been finalized," Barak said.

Barak's dovish Labor party supports a partial settlement freeze, but hawks in the government do not. Cabinet Minister Gilad Erdan is from the ruling Likud Party. Erdan said it is unimaginable that a right-wing Likud government would permit a construction freeze that violates the civil rights of the settlers.

Under the U.S.-backed "Roadmap" peace plan, Israel is required to halt construction. Ideologically, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agrees with that. But pragmatically, he could seek a compromise because he is anxious to heal a deepening rift with Washington.

Seekers of Ark Left in the Dark


The leader of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church failed on Friday to make good on a promise of an announcement regarding the Ark of the Covenant.

The Italian news agency Adnkronos had reported that Patriarch Abuna Pauolos, who was in Rome last week to meet with Pope Benedict XVI, said that "Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that God delivered to Moses, and the center of searches and studies for centuries."

"The Ark of the Covenant has been in Ethiopia for many centuries," he reportedly said. "As Patriarch, I have seen it with my own eyes, and only a few, highly-qualified persons could do the same -- until now."

The news agency said an announcement would be made at the Hotel Aldrovandi in Rome, where Pauolos was staying. However, a hotel spokeswoman told WorldNetDaily that although Pauolos had indeed been in residence there, no news conference or event was scheduled.

The original report quoted the patriarch as saying that the Ark of the Covenant "is in Ethiopia and nobody … knows for how much time. Only God knows. "He also said that the Ark "is described perfectly in the Bible" and added that "The state of conservation is good because it is not made from man's hand, but is something that God has made."

Jihadist: Cannibalizing U.S. Soldiers Allowed Under Laws of Shariah


The Al-Falluja jihadist forum has featured a new discussion – on the slaughter and eating of U.S. soldiers, according to officials with the Middle East Media Research Institute.

On the organization's Jihad Threat and Terrorism page, a subscription service of the nonprofit that monitors, interprets and reports on media developments in the Middle East, a report said the discussion was prompted by a new book from Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, one of the most influential jihadist sheiks alive.

The MEMRI report said a forum participant who identifies himself as "Al-Maqdisi's Student," wrote on June 13: "Is it permitted to eat the flesh of American soldiers? A quote from the illustrious Sheik Al-Maqdisi, may Allah preserve him."

He recounted an exchange involving early Muslim commander Khalid b. Al-Walid and a Byzantine commander at the battle of Yarmuk, which is thought to have happened in CE 636.

"The Byzantine commander said to Khalid that the Muslims had only gone out from the land due to hunger, and offered to buy them off. Khalid responded, 'It was not hunger that drove us out of our land, as you say; we are a people who drink blood, and we know that there is no blood more delicious than Byzantine blood. That is why we came,'" the report said.

The forum participant, the "Student," then follows up with the comment: "The mujahideen should inform their belligerent [infidel] and apostate enemies of this exceptional law so that they can bring it up and study it at their conferences on human rights, counterterrorism, and so on! Then they in turn can proclaim that our soldiers lick their lips [at the thought of] eating the flesh of their hamburger- and Pepsi-eating soldiers!"

As with many forums, some of the responses were on varied topics, but on the issue of cannibalism, "Abu Hajir Al-Muqrin" wrote: "If we are forced to eat Americans, let's make them into a gunpowder-flavored kabsa with some hors d'oeuvres made of apostates."

Another comment, "But the slaughtering needs to be according to the Shariah," from "Muhammad Al-Baghdadi."

The "Student" then returned to the threat, posting: "A true story: a group of mujahideen from one of the brigades was in the mountains during the jihad against the Russians. One of them was sent off on a mission; he went and came back, but he couldn't find any of the brothers. He saw a roasted calf leg that the brothers in the brigade left for him for dinner, and he ate of it until he was full.

"When he went back to the main camp, the brothers saw him and offered him dinner! He said: praise Allah, I already ate! They said: Where did you find dinner? He said: You left me roasted calf leg! They said: No, no, that wasn't calf, that was the leg of a Russian infidel! He answered: No matter, it's all Islamic slaughter!"

WND reported earlier when MEMRI documented a segment on the Hamas terrorist organization's official television network proclaiming the Jews' "favorite cocktail" was Muslim blood mixed with soda water.

"You must drink from the blood of Muslims," says a Jewish father to his son during the drama. "But mix it with soda water," replies the son, whose name is Shimon.

World Bank to Fund Dead Sea-Red Sea Canal Test Project


The World Bank has agreed to fund a pilot program of what could turn out to be one of the most ambitious water projects in the world – the Dead Sea Canal Project, which would see the construction of waterworks 112 miles in length, connecting the Red Sea and Dead Sea.

The project would help replenish the Dead Sea, which is in danger of major ecological damage, according to many scientists, as well as provide a new source of fresh water for the region, with large desalination plants treating water that would be provided for Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

The deal for the pilot project, which would see the construction of a pipeline between the two bodies of water, was closed Friday between Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom and World Bank President Robert Zoellick. The pipeline, to be built by 2011, will function as a study to decide the feasibility of the project.

Besides helping to replenish the Dead Sea, the project could also ease energy costs for participants. The Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, is 400 meters below the Red Sea, and the drop in altitude as the water flows could be used to generate hydroelectric power. The water would then be treated in a companion desalination plant, making it fit for agricultural or industrial use and easing the strain on fresh water resources in the region.

Eventually, the full project could see as much as 1.8 billion cubic meters of water pumped through the system. One billion cubic meters would be pumped into the Dead Sea, and the rest would be treated at a desalination plant, to be split between Israel, Jordan and the PA. The project has been much discussed for decades – it was first proposed by the British in the 1880s, according to historians.

According to the World Bank, the desalination plant attached to the project would be the biggest in the world, with a final bill of around $7 billion. The pilot project, which the World Bank has agreed to fund, will cost around $15 million. Shalom is working on developing funding for the full project, from both the World Bank and countries around the world. Speaking to reporters, Shalom said that the initial funding was "a dramatic, important move that can lead to a breakthrough. This project has been delayed for years. We see it as a staple for financial peace."

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