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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

      A confidential medical report released to the Palestinian Authority from the French hospital in which Yasir Arafat died revealed that the Palestinian leader succumbed to AIDS, said the founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command terrorist group.
 
      Ahmed Jibril – the infamous, Damascus-based PFLP chief who at times was a close Arafat confidante – said in an interview with Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his team told him the French medical report listed AIDS as Arafat’s cause of death.
 
      Arafat died Nov. 11, 2004, at a military hospital in Paris. The official cause of death was not released because French law prohibits distribution of medical records to anyone other than immediate family. A copy of Arafat’s medical report was obtained in 2005 by the PA as part of an internal investigation into Arafat’s death.
 
      While Arafat was ill, there was some speculation that he was homosexual and dying of AIDS. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by Islam. Arafat’s wife, Suha, lived mostly abroad and rarely saw her husband.
 
      In a WorldNetDaily interview, James J. Welsh, the National Security Agency’s former chief analyst of Arafat’s communications, said the U.S. had specific information indicating that the Palestinian leader preyed on teenage boys.
 
      “Arafat always had several 13-15 year old orphaned boys in his entourage. We figured out [in the 1970's while Arafat was based in Tunis] that he would often recall several of these boys to Beirut just before he would leave for a trip outside Lebanon. It proved to be a good indicator of Arafat’s travel plans. While Arafat did have a regular security detail, many of those thought to be security personnel – the teenage boys – were actually there for other purposes,” Welsh said.
 
      In response to Welsh’s allegations, senior Arafat aide and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told this column the reports are “utter nonsense and don’t merit any reaction.”
 
Syria Update
 
      The Syrian government, preparing for a war with the Jewish state, has given its officials and top contacts alternative phone numbers to key government ministries in case the Damascus phone system is knocked out during an Israeli aerial bombardment.
 
      An official from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Baath party, speaking to WND from Damascus on condition of anonymity, said the Syrian government distributed the alternative phone numbers earlier this month to ensure continued communication in what he said was the “likely” event of war.
 
      Last week in a widely circulated interview, a top Baath official warned that if Israel doesn’t vacate the strategic Golan Heights by August-September, Syrian guerrillas would immediately launch “resistance operations” against the Golan’s Jewish communities.
 
      The Baath official said Damascus is preparing for anticipated Israeli retaliation following Syrian guerrilla attacks and for a larger war with the Jewish state in August or September. He said that in the opening salvo of any conflict, Syria has the capabilities of firing “hundreds” of missiles at Tel Aviv.
 
      Israeli security officials said Syria is indeed preparing for a summer war. But they said there was an argument within the Israeli intelligence community whether the military buildup is for an attack or is meant by Syria to pressure Israel into vacating the Golan Heights. Some officials said Syria figures the U.S. or Israel will attack Iran, and Syria will be drawn into a larger military confrontation by opening up a front against northern Israel. Also, the officials said, Syria may believe Israel will attack first, and its preparations are defensive in nature.
 
Ransom Money?
 
      In exchange for the release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, the Hamas terror group paid kidnappers $4 million and provided them with weaponry, Palestinian sources involved in the negotiations told WND.
 
      Hamas repeatedly has denied it paid anything to the Army of Islam, the gang that abducted Johnston in the Gaza Strip March 12 and held the reporter for 114 days, marking the longest detention of any foreign correspondent in Gaza.
 
      Officials from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office also accused Hamas of paying off the Army of Islam.
 
      A number of senior Israeli defence officials told the Jerusalem Post earlier this month they believed Hamas paid a substantial ransom – possibly millions of dollars – to Johnston’s captors in return for his release. The officials told the Post the fact that the Army of Islam captors released the BBC journalist without a fight indicates that the terrorist group received something in return.
 
      It wasn’t immediately clear whether Hamas paid the purported ransom from its own funds or some money was contributed by others.  The BBC has confirmed it negotiated directly with Hamas but has denied paying anything for Johnston’s release. According to sources close to the Johnston negotiations, when their reporter was first kidnapped the BBC immediately expressed willingness in private talks to pay for Johnston’s freedom.
 
Druze Concerns
 
      Lebanon’s Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, said in an interview with this column that Syria has been sending “thousands of so-called workers and tourists per day” into Lebanon, possibly ahead of an attempt to destabilize the country.
 
      “I am not dismissing that Syria will start major trouble for us to delay the tribunal,” said Jumblatt, referring to a special tribunal set up by the UN Security Council to try any indicted suspects in the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in a car bombing in 2005.
 
      Also, the UN is set later this week to debate deploying international monitors or forces to the Syria-Lebanese border to stem the reported flow of large quantities of weapons to Hizbullah. A deployment along its border is strongly contested by Syria.
 
      Israeli security officials are concerned that any violence in Lebanon can spill over into attacks against the Jewish state by Hizbullah and Palestinian groups.

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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