August 7, 2005

News for August 7, 2005

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Palestinian Gaza “ceasefire” commission breaks up (August 07, 2005) - Breaking exclusive from debka.com: Ten days before Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip begins, the Palestinian commission supposed to oversee the Gaza ceasefire has collapsed. It was Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen’s only channel for dialogue with the Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorist leaders and his only mechanism for trying to keep them in check. The commission's dissolution could remove the brakes holding them back from attacking.


Israeli Finance Minister Resigns Over Gaza (August 07, 2005) - Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resigned from his post Sunday to protest next week’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, a ministry spokesman said. Netanyahu, seen as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s biggest political rival within the Likud Party, submitted a letter of resignation during the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, said the Finance Ministry spokesman, Eli Yosef. The resignation will take effect within 48 hours. After Netanyahu submitted his resignation, the Cabinet gave its final approval to the first stage of the Gaza pullout - the dismantling of the isolated Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Morag settlements. Israel plans to begin removing some 9,000 settlers from their homes, starting in days. All 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank are marked for dismantling. more...


Arabs, Israelis prepare Temple Mount showdown (August 07, 2005) - A Palestinian Temple Mount leader with alleged links to Hamas has called on Arabs to flood the holy site next weekend to protect it from “Israeli protesters,” while a Jewish group is urging Jews to ascend the Mount en mass the same day. The announcements come one day after an Israeli soldier who refused orders to participate in this month’s planned Gaza withdrawal killed four Arabs and wounded 19 others in a shooting attack, fueling tensions here and prompting Arab calls for revenge. Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement, a Palestinian Temple Mount activist group, called on Arabs Friday to “defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque” Aug. 14, the day Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples with a 25-hour fast. The Western Wall, below the Mount, is usually particularly crowded the day of the fast, with several large Jewish prayer services taking place throughout the day and the night before. The Jewish worshippers traditionally do not ascend the heavily restricted Mount itself. Salah, who was recently released from prison, has been accused by Israel of receiving funds from organizations related to terror groups, including Hamas. He said Friday, Muslims must defend Al Aqsa by outnumbering the Jews praying at the Western Wall below. The Islamic Movement’s call for Palestinian protests coincides with an announcement by Revava, a Jewish Temple Mount group, for Jews to ascend the Mount Aug. 14 to hold a “massive prayer assembly for the rebuilding of our holy Temple on its historic site.” more...


U.S. Embassy in Saudi Closes Over Threat (August 07, 2005) - The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia will close Monday and Tuesday because of a threat against U.S. government buildings, the embassy said Sunday. In a statement, the embassy said mission personnel will limit nonofficial travel during the next two days and urged Americans to keep “a high level of vigilance.” The statement did not elaborate on the nature of the threat. “The American Embassy in Riyadh advises all American citizens living in Saudi Arabia that, in response to a threat against U.S. government buildings in the kingdom, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and the U.S. consulate generals in Jiddah and Dhahran will be closed on Aug. 8 and 9,” the statement said. It reminded Americans that, in the past, terrorist groups have targeted housing compounds and other establishments where Westerners may be located. “American citizens are ... advised to exercise caution and maintain good situational awareness when visiting commercial establishments frequented by Westerners or in primarily Western environments,” the statement added. Hours after the announcement, a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, said his government had no information about a possible threat. more...


Orthodox TV Channel Starts Broadcasting in Russia (August 07, 2005) - The launch of the Orthodox television channel Spas (Savior) has been held in Moscow, Interfax reported Thursday. Presented to journalists were both the programs to be broadcast and their presenters, among whom are representatives of the Orthodox clergy, historians, political analysts, and public figures. According to Spas’ editor-in-chief, Ivan Demidov, the channel will primarily feature current affairs, talk shows and history programs. The creation of the new channel received the blessing of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II. “It would be a crime not to use television to spread the word of God,” said Archpriest Dimitriy Sarnov, head of the section for relations with the armed forces and law-enforcement establishments of the Moscow Patriarchy, and one of the new channel’s presenters. Initially the channel will broadcast for 12 hours a day, from 10 in the morning until 10 in the evening. Demidov expressed the hope that by Christmas or New Year the channel would be able to increase its air time to 16 hours a day. more...


High-profile militant detained in Chechnya (August 07, 2005) - A high-profile rebel fighter, Abubakar Khasuyev, has been detained by police in Chechnya, the republican Interior Ministry reported Sunday. Khasuyev was caught this morning in a surprise police raid launched in the Chechen capital, Grozny, ministry spokespeople said. The man is now being interrogated, they added. Another rebel, Alvia Basayev, has been reportedly detained in the southern Chechen region of Urus Martan.


Northern Israel on alert after bus attack (August 07, 2005) - Israeli authorities have been placed on alert in wake of the killing of four people by an army deserter. Officials said police and security forces were placed on alert in northern Israel in wake of a bus attack by an Israeli soldier, later lynched by a mob. Those killed were members of Israel’s Druse community. A man identified as a Jewish army deserter entered a bus in the Arab town of Shfaram on Thursday and opened fire. At least four were people were killed and 16 injured in what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon deemed a terrorist attack. “This was a reprehensible act by a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist who sought to attack innocent Israeli citizens,” Sharon said. “This terrorist event was a deliberate attempt to harm the fabric of relations among all Israeli citizens.” A crowd of passersby rushed the bus and killed the gunman, who by then had been handcuffed by police. The dead attacker was later identified as Eden Zaada, a 19-year-old resident of an Israeli community in the northern West Bank. Zaada’s parents said their son did not want to serve in the army and sought to turn in his weapon to Israeli police last month. They said police refused to accept his son's weapon. more...


In Israel’s vacuum, al-Qaida moves in to Gaza (August 07, 2005) - As Israel plans a unilateral withdrawal of all Jews from the Gaza Strip this fall, al-Qaida operatives are reportedly ready to move in. Al-Qaida’s presence, in the name of “The Jihad Brigades in the Promised Land,” was announced on an Islamic website known to be friendly to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. The group claimed responsibility for mortar and rocket attacks against Jewish communities in Gaza. The al-Qaida affiliate boasted of using a new rocket called the Sajil. “The Brigades are not a new organization but merely a spirit of faith pushing the jihad fighters in the promised land to close ranks behind an honest and uncompromising leadership,” the announcement said. Al-Qaida is known to have a working relationship with Hamas, the most active terrorist group in the Gaza Strip. The news of an al-Qaida presence in Gaza did not shock Israeli military officials, one of whom has already drawn up a battle plan to take on bin Laden’s group, as reported last week in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin. more...


Israel arrests senior Palestinian cleric in Jerusalem (August 07, 2005) - Israeli police arrested a senior Palestinian cleric near Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday, his son said. Israel Radio said Sheikh Hamed Bitawi was arrested because he did not have a permit to enter Israel and that police were also checking whether he used inciting language in a sermon he delivered at the mosque several weeks previously. Bitawi, 61, was detained after the end of prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Bitawi is an influential figure in the Islamic movement in the West Bank city of Nablus. He is not known to be a member of any militant group. more...