Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JPS) — Israelis scored poorly — 14th out of 20 countries — in an international survey of how much people know about science and the environment.

Canada was in first place, and Slovenia (17th), Russia (19th) and Poland (20th) were at the bottom.

The survey was disclosed recently in the United States and published in the British journal New Scientist.

In 1993 and 1994, social scientists in 20 countries tested over 25,000 adults for their knowledge of basic facts about science and the environment. Israelis scored 5.85 out of a total of 12 points, according to the results.

Jordanian diplomats open Gaza office

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jordan has established a diplomatic office in the Gaza Strip.

A senior Jordanian diplomat arrived Monday in Gaza to take up his duties as the Hashemite kingdom's representative.

Ziad Majali, 43, a former head of the political department at the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, is due to present his credentials to Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat later this month.

Eight other countries have representatives in Gaza: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Greece and Turkey.

Retrial ordered of Arab given death sentence

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A military appeals court in the West Bank town of Ramallah ordered a retrial last week of the case of a Palestinian who was sentenced to death for plotting a fatal terror attack.

In mid-November, Said Badarneh was sentenced to death for involvement in the Hadera suicide bus bombing. In the attack, which took place April 13, 1994, five Israelis were killed and 30 people were wounded.

In their ruling last week, the judges ordered a retrial because of irregularities in the original trial. Among the irregularities cited were the lack of an evidentiary hearing and the illegal use of evidence from a Hamas activist.

The five-judge panel was expected to overturn the death sentence and instead impose six concurrent life sentences, Israel Radio reported.

Catholic synod is 1st in 2,000 years

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Catholic Church has convened a synod here, the first to take place in the Holy Land in 2,000 years.

Church leaders and Christian intellectuals from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian autonomous zones are participating in the event, which will include a series of discussions and meetings on social, religious and political affairs that is expected to last several years.

Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the chief Roman Catholic clergyman in the region, is presiding over the synod, which will also include Greek Catholics, Armenian Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Maronites and Chaldeans.

All of the churches represented at the synod recognize the authority of the pope.

Father Rafiq Khoury, secretary-general of the synod, said that at its conclusion, participants will produce a document on the role of Christians today in the Holy Land.

Some of the meetings are being held in Jerusalem, which has been at the center of renewed debate as Israel and the Palestinians are set to discuss its final status in negotiations beginning in 1996.

Some said they expect the synod to address political issues such as the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian rights.

45 Hamas members arrested, one killed

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli security forces have arrested some 45 members of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.

Those arrested were suspected of planning to detonate a car bomb in Jerusalem, kidnap Israeli soldiers, shoot at army roadblocks and hijack an Israeli bus, according to an Israel Defense Force statement issued Monday.

The group was led by Mohammed Daya, a leader of the military wing of Hamas from the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio said.

He was said to be responsible for planning last October's kidnapping of Cpl. Nachshon Waxman, who was later killed during a shootout between his kidnappers and an elite Israeli commando unit attempting to rescue him.

The arrests, which were carried out over several days, came after a shootout last Friday in the West Bank town of Hebron in which Israeli soldiers killed a Hamas terrorist who was on Israel's most-wanted list.

Israel Radio reported that the terrorist, who was later identified as Hamed Yamour, was found by Israeli security officials in a suspected hideout of Muslim militants.

The head of the IDF's central command, Maj. Gen. Ilan Biran, told Israel Radio that Yamour was one of the most-wanted members of Hamas. He added that Yamour had been involved in a number of terror attacks against Israelis.

Meanwhile, Jordan has expelled two senior Hamas activists in accordance with a Palestine Liberation Organization request, media reports said.