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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

Jordan has been quietly purchasing real estate surrounding the Temple Mount in hopes of gaining more control over the area, according to Palestinian and Israeli officials.

The officials confirmed to WorldNetDaily that Jordanian has been using shell companies during the past year to purchase several apartments and shops located at key peripheral sections of the Temple Mount.

The officials said Jordan also set up a commission to use the companies to petition mostly Arab landowners adjacent to eastern sections of the Temple Mount to sell their properties. They said profits from sales at any purchased shops would be reinvested to buy more real estate near the mount and in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods.

The shell companies at times have presented themselves as acting on behalf of the Wakf, the Jordanian-backed Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount.

The Israeli and Palestinian officials said Jordan recently placed a bid to purchase Jerusalem’s Intercontinental Hotel, which is situated on an important road that leads to an ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives, adjacent to the Temple Mount.

Informed sources say the hotel is owned by groups representing the Israeli government and is leased every 10 years to a new company. The last lease was signed in 1997 and expires later this year. It was not immediately clear whether Jordan’s bid was accepted.

Real estate ownership in Jerusalem’s Old City is widely considered a sensitive matter. Previous Israeli-Palestinian peace proposals tentatively divided parts of the city based on Jewish or Arab residence.

Jordan controlled eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount from 1948 until Israel liberated the territory in the 1967 Six-Day War. During the period of Jordanian control, Jews were barred from the Western Wall and Temple Mount, and hundreds of synagogues were destroyed. Jordan constructed a road to the Intercontinental Hotel that stretched across the Mount of Olives, bulldozing hundreds of Jewish gravestones.

Improved Rockets From Gaza

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have manufactured improved rockets that can travel deeper into the Jewish state, placing hundreds of thousands more Israelis within firing range, a leader and spokesman of the Islamic Jihad terror group claimed.

Islamic Jihad’s Abu Muhammad said his organization manufactured rockets that can travel up to 14.3 miles into Israel from Gaza.

Since Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip in August 2005, Islamic Jihad has been responsible for firing hundreds of rockets from the territory aimed at nearby Jewish cities. Until now, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have mostly been firing Kassam rockets, which can travel between one and four miles, depending on the sophistication of the particular rocket.

The new claim suggests a dozen more Israeli cities would be within range of the rockets, bringing to about 250,000 the total Israeli population that could live under rocket threat from Gaza.

IDF Acknowledges Hamas Growth

Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups aided by Iran have been using a four-month-old cease-fire to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip and build Hizbullah-like guerrilla armies to confront the Jewish state, the Israel Defense Forces announced last week.

Yoav Galant, chief of the IDF’s Gaza-area division, also told reporters that Iran has been training Palestinian terrorists over the past few months in military tactics, enabling Hamas to grow from a ragtag terror group into a well-organized militia resembling an army – complete with battalions, companies, platoons, special forces for surveillance, snipers and explosive experts.

In December, three weeks after the Nov. 23 truce was forged, this column quoted top Gazan terror leaders explaining that they would use the cease-fire to smuggle in weapons, fortify military positions and build guerrilla armies.

“We are turning Gaza into south Lebanon,” Abu Ahmed, northern Gaza leader for the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades said in December, referring to the area in Lebanon in which Hizbullah built military bases and a large rocket infrastructure.”

Fatah Intelligence HQ Raided

Israel last week raided military intelligence headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, arresting 18 Fatah militia members who were wanted for carrying out and planning terror attacks against the Jewish state.

Seventeen of the 18 terrorists arrested in the raid were members of Fatah’s intelligence unit, which received U.S. weapons shipments in recent months and was slated to receive some $86 in American funds.   The Fatah intelligence unit previously received arms from shipments of U.S. weapons sent to Fatah in recent months, including 7,000 assault rifles delivered in January.

The intelligence branch was also slated to receive funds from an $86.4 million grant the Bush administration had pledged in January to strengthen the Fatah security forces. The grant was put on hold last month by congressional leaders who asked the State Department to clarify whether Palestinians terror groups might receive some of the money.
 
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs.

About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.


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