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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

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Hamas this week ambushed a convoy in the Gaza Strip, seizing a stockpile of American weapons transferred in recent months to militias associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, according to Hamas and Fatah sources.

“We obtained the U.S. weapons and will keep hijacking any assistance the Americans provide to Fatah. Our fighters are aware of the American and Israeli conspiracies to topple our government. We’re trained and well prepared to defeat the American-backed (Palestinian) agents,” said a top member of Hamas’s so-called military wing in the Gaza Strip.

In recent months the U.S. has reportedly transferred large quantities of weapons to Fatah. While the weapons were meant to bolster Fatah in Gaza, Hamas has reportedly won most battles against the U.S.-backed militias.

Fatah and Hamas engaged in months of factional clashes until the two forged a unity government in February. But renewed fighting in Gaza this weak threatens to torpedo the unity deal.

According to Israeli and Palestinian security officials and Hamas sources, Hamas militias in recent months have taken almost complete control of the northern Gaza Strip, including areas from which rockets are launched regularly into nearby Jewish communities.

The officials said Fatah, which is backed by the U.S., is restricted to acting within a half-mile radius of a major Fatah military compound. Hamas has set up roadblocks and checkpoints throughout northern Gaza to ensure that Fatah militias remain near their compound.

Olmert Looks to Syria

Embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, facing devastatingly low poll numbers and calls from the public and senior officials to resign, has directed staffers at Israel’s Foreign Ministry to conduct preparation work for the possibility of talks with Syria.

The talks would aim for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights – strategic mountainous territory looking down on Israeli and Syrian population centers twice used by Damascus to launch ground invasions into the Jewish state.

Top diplomatic sources said that Israeli intelligence agencies have been asked to submit reports on the status of Syria’s military and the likelihood of a Syrian military attack against the Jewish state.

Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni has held talks with senior Ministry staffers to outline Israel’s interests during any negotiations with Syria, the sources said. They said Foreign Ministry analysts were instructed to put together detailed reports on whether Syrian President Bashar Assad is serious about recent calls for peace with Israel.

Assad has also recently made a series of statements that his military is ready for war with the Jewish state.

Syria, which signed a military alliance with Iran, openly hosts Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders. Israel says Syria has been allowing large quantities of weapons to be transported from its borders to Hizbullah. Syria has been accused of supporting the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq and generating unrest in Lebanon, and has been widely blamed for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

IDF: Rockets No Big Deal

An Israeli military court this week conceded that Palestinians have been firing rockets from the West Bank, which borders Jerusalem and runs alongside Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.

The court accused Amar Barake, a Fatah militia member, of launching rockets in May and July of 2006 from the northern West Bank town of Jenin. The court said the rockets were aimed at Israeli cities but fell short.

In both May and July, this column reported exclusively that terrorists in the northern West Bank fired a series of rockets toward Jewish population centers. At the time, Israeli security officials would not state on the record that any rockets were launched from the territory.

Security analysts maintain that publicity about terror groups’ current missile capabilities in the West Bank could generate criticism of any future withdrawal from the West Bank. Official Israeli defense spokesmen claim that the threat of rockets being fired from the West Bank is minimal. They say the army there has largely prevented rockets from being transferred to the territory from the Gaza Strip.

Several terror leaders, however, claim that their groups are developing rocket capabilities in the West Bank. Some security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say there is much evidence that Palestinian terror groups have been producing and stockpiling rockets in northern Samaria which are currently capable of being fired.

Christians Attacked in Egypt

Muslims in Egypt this past weekend attacked local Christians and set fire to their shops and homes after the Christian community was accused of attempting to build a church.

The riots broke out Friday in the village of Behma, about 50 miles south of Cairo, reportedly after a Muslim sermon at a nearby village mosque accused the town’s Coptic Christian population of planning to construct a church without a permit. The Christians said the sermon was meant to stir violence.

The riots this weekend reportedly saw Muslim gangs of more than 500 clash with about 200 Christians. At least 27 Christian-owned houses and shops were damaged by fire, including 10 homes that were completely gutted.

Muslims reportedly threw Molotov cocktails at some Christian homes. Sixty-nine Christians were injured, some gravely.

The Egyptian government – the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid – heavily restricts the construction or enlargement of churches, requiring permits for any Christian building.

Christians now comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, but Christians are effectively restricted from senior government, military or educational positions, and any worship services require the permission of the government.

Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs.

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About the Author: Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief and senior reporter for WorldNetDaily.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 770-WABC Radio, the largest talk radio station in the U.S., every Sunday between 2-4 p.m (CHANGE TO 7-9 p.m.). His website is KleinOnline.com


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