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Middle East news briefs.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency
January 21, 2001

Barak: Old City must be shared

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Israeli and Palestinian negotiators must find a way to share administration of Jerusalem's Old City and its holy sites ``so there won't be a split and divided city and there will be free access to all." Speaking Tuesday before an audience of high school students, Barak said he would ensure that Jerusalem sites that are holy to Jews ``will be under our sovereignty."

Barak briefs Powell on Mideast

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak spoke by phone Monday night with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and briefed him on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Barak's office said he outlined Israel's positions in the talks during his first contact with the newly inaugurated Bush administration.

Putin vows to press for peace

MOSCOW (JTA) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would work to ensure continuity in the Middle East peace process despite the change of administration in Washington and the upcoming election in Israel. Putin made the comment after meeting Tuesday in Moscow with Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who said Russia's good relations with the Arab world could be used to help the peace process.

Sharon mum on 1982 war

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon refused to answer questions from students about his role in the 1982 war in Lebanon when he visited a high school Tuesday. The previous day, Sharon was taken by surprise when a student blamed him for the shell shock her father suffered after the war. The student is active in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's campaign, which prompted Likud officials to charge that the Barak campaign is planting questions with students to embarrass Sharon. Barak's camp denied the accusation.

Barak wins mock election

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak defeated opposition leader Ariel Sharon by 57.7 percent to 42.3 percent in mock elections held Tuesday at a Ramat Gan high school. The mock vote at Blich High School draws media attention because it has correctly predicted outcomes in several previous elections. Sharon supporters downplayed the significance of the vote, noting that in 1996 students overwhelmingly voted for then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who lost to Benjamin Netanyahu in the real election.

Party wants plea canceled

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's Meretz Party asked the attorney general to cancel a plea bargain under which a Jewish settler was given six months community service for killing a Palestinian boy. The plea bargain was reached following a Supreme Court ruling that Nahum Korman had not intended to kill the youth.

One wounded in Gaza explosion

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli soldier was wounded in a roadside explosion in the Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed responsibility for Monday's blast near the settlement of Netzarim. In another development, Israeli security forces neutralized two bombs discovered near the tunnel road linking Jerusalem to the Etzion bloc of settlements in the West Bank.

Barak: Little hope for Taba talks

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed talks Monday at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said he did not expect much from the ``peace marathon." As the talks were held, Israel allowed in 16,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who had been granted Israeli work permits last month.

Sharon defends interview

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Opposition leader Ariel Sharon defended remarks he made in a New Yorker magazine interview calling Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat a murderer and a liar. Sharon said Monday his personal views of Arafat were already known. Peres backers stop campaign JERUSALEM (JTA) — Leaders of a movement to replace Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak with Cabinet minister Shimon Peres as the Labor Party's candidate for prime minister announced they are stopping their campaign, Israel Radio reported. Israel tries to calm Syrian fears JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel sent messages via the United States to Syria that it is not interested in escalating tensions. Monday's move came after the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that Syrian armed forces went on high alert for fear that Israeli forces might attack before Israel's Feb. 6 election.

Palestinians: Clinton was biased

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian negotiators accused President Clinton of siding with Israel during his term in the White House and called on the Bush administration to take a new tack. In a new memorandum summing up the Clinton administration's actions in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the negotiators said Monday, ``Over the last seven years in particular, the U.S. has become increasingly identified with Israeli ideological assumptions." The Bush administration will be able to play a role in brokering a peace deal, ``but only if it can learn from the mistakes and failures of the last seven years," they said.

Shas rabbi blasts secular parties

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The spiritual leader of the fervently Orthodox Shas Party said members of the secular Meretz and Shinui parties cannot be witnesses at Jewish weddings because they are evil, smoke on the Sabbath and eat nonkosher food. In a weekly lesson on Jewish marriage, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said such a union is valid only if witnessed by two observant Jews. Shinui Knesset member Joseph Paritzky said in response that his party is trying to promote civil marriages in Israel.

Temple Mount digging criticized

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli archaeologists called for greater supervision of work authorized by the Wakf Islamic Trust on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Monday's call followed reports that bulldozers had dug a deep ditch near the Dome of the Rock, causing damage to a floor dating from the Second Temple period. However, Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said only approved work was being done at the site.

Israel, Palestinians try again

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began a new round of talks in Egypt on Sunday aimed at advancing the peace process. The talks at the resort town of Taba are taking place with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak trailing in polls leading up to Israel's prime ministerial election on Feb. 6. It's not clear whether an accord with the Palestinians -- which likely would entail deep Israeli concessions -- would help or hurt Barak against opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

Arrest made in Web murder

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel arrested a Palestinian woman in connection with the death of an Israeli teen-ager following an Internet romance. Sunday's arrest of Amana Jawad Mona Najar, 25, was made in an area of the West Bank under Israeli security control. Israeli agents reportedly used information from the computer of Ophir Rahum, 16, to track down Najar. Rahum was killed Jan. 17 after he went to meet Najar, whom he apparently knew as an American tourist named Sally.

Israel ends ties to U.S.-led panel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel froze cooperation with a U.S.-led committee probing the outbreak of violence in the territories. The move came after a team working for the Mitchell Committee visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem without prior coordination with Israel, contrary to agreement. The team was escorted by the Wakf, or Muslim religious trust, appointed by the Palestinian Authority.

Clinton says shalom to Mideast

JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Clinton sent farewell messages that were published in Israeli and Palestinian newspapers a day before he left the White House. Clinton told the Palestinians not to seek revenge but to pursue peace through negotiations, and told Israelis not to give up on the peace process despite the ongoing violence.

Sharon details peace plan

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state, but on less land than the Palestinians want, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz. On Jan. 18, the newspaper published details of a plan drawn up by Sharon, the front-runner to become Israel's next prime minister in Feb. 6 elections. Under the plan, he would seek to keep all Jewish settlements in place. Under the plan, Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty. Palestinian officials immediately rejected every aspect of the plan.

Palestinians killed TV head

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian group claimed responsibility for killing the head of Palestinian Television. The Brigade of Al Aksa Martyrs said Jan. 18 it killed Hisham Miki the previous day because Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat refused to remove him from his post despite allegations of corruption. Palestinian officials initially had blamed Israel for the slaying.

Militia leader calls for boycott

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The leader of Palestinian militias in the West Bank called for a boycott of Israeli goods. ``The Palestinians are the second largest export market for Israel after the United States,'' Marwan Barghouti said Jan. 18 on Palestine Radio. Barghouti admitted that the boycott also would hurt the Palestinians because of the lower quality of Palestinian goods.

Israel reopens Gaza airport

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel reopened the Palestinian international airport in the Gaza Strip. Israel has overall security responsibility at the airport, and closed it earlier this week after a Gaza settler was murdered.

Israeli police arrest informer

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police arrested an Israeli accused of turning over Palestinian collaborators to the Palestinian Authority for $1,250, according to the Jerusalem Post.

© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.


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