Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — An armored corps soldier was sentenced to 28 days in military jail last week for refusing to evict settlers illegally encamped near Hebron earlier in the week, the army has confirmed.

The case was the first since the rabbinical ruling calling on soldiers to refuse orders to evict settlers and dismantle settlements and army bases in the territories.

Sgt. Nimrod Lahavi, 20, a tank commander, refused a direct order to remove settlers during a protest in Givat Oz, near Susya south of Hebron.

Lahavi, from Kinneret, refused the order on ideological grounds and said he did not join the army to fight Jews.

The army said refusal to obey orders on any grounds will result in punishment, and that every case would be prosecuted to the full extent of military law.

"Any order which is not patently illegal must be obeyed. The IDF executes instructions ordered by the political echelon, and soldiers' personal opinions are irrelevant and should be kept private when orders are to be obeyed," a central command officer said yesterday.

Lahavi's parents, speaking on Army Radio, expressed support for their son's actions.

"Our son is a patriot who did not join the army to carry out violence against Jews," his father said.

Israel among world's top buyers of arms

WASHINGTON, D.C. (JTA) — Israel ranks as the third largest arms-purchaser among developing nations, according to a new U.S. government study.

The study, compiled by the Congressional Research Service, also places Israel eighth on the list of countries that supplied arms to Third World nations in 1994.

The report highlights the fact that France has replaced the United States as the leading arms supplier to developing countries worldwide.

Israel's agreements to buy $2.4 billion in arms were outstripped only by Saudi Arabia, which agreed to the purchase of $9.5 billion in arms, and by China, which agreed to purchase $2.5 billion.

The $2.4 billion included the agreement to purchase 20 F-15Is, the centerpiece of Israel's future long-range deterrent capability. Those planes will not be fully delivered or paid for until 1997.

Police from Algeria arrive in Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A group of more than 140 Palestinian police officers have arrived in the Gaza Strip from Algeria.

They are scheduled to join a contingent of 12,000 Palestinian police officers who will be on patrol in the West Bank when Palestinian self-rule is extended in the area.

Israel Radio reported that two members of the newly arrived police force were stopped by Israel for security reasons.

Marriage refusal leads to immigrant's murder

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Ethiopian immigrant to Israel has shot and killed a woman who refused to become his wife.

He later killed himself in her apartment, located in Ramla.

Their parents had arranged the marriage when they were still children living in Ethiopia, according to friends.

The man was incensed by the 20-year-old woman's refusal to fulfill the obligation, they said.

Home from reserve duty in the army, he shot the woman and himself with his M-16 rifle.

Dead Sea hoteliers fear tourist overload

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Within five years, the number of hotel rooms at the Dead Sea will almost triple, but area hoteliers are concerned about what will happen when all the occupants of the new rooms flush the toilet.

Meeting in an emergency conference earlier this month, the hoteliers said they were concerned about the area's infrastructure, which is not prepared for the sudden growth in hotels. There are not enough roads, water, health services or sewage facilities, they said.

Today the area has 1,600 hotel rooms, with an average annual occupancy rate of 75 percent. Within five years, there will be 4,500 rooms, and industry officials expect the popularity of the region will continue.

In addition to the infrastructure concerns, there is already a shortage of workers, they added. Today there are some 1,500 hotel workers at the Dead Sea and within the coming years another 3,000 will be needed.

Israel lifts closure of the Gaza strip

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel lifted its closure of the Gaza Strip after Palestinian police arrested a man suspected of planning a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv.

Israel imposed the closure Aug. 10 after receiving reports about the planned suicide bombing. The closure prevented thousands of Palestinian laborers from entering Israel.

Israel shared its intelligence about the planned attack with the Palestinian police, who spent more than a week hunting for Wael Nasser, a member of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.

Palestinian police captured Nasser and two other Hamas members on Friday after a shoot-out in Gaza City's Sheik Radwan section, a Hamas stronghold.

Several police officers and local residents were wounded in the exchange of gunfire during the four-hour street battle.

Imad Faluji, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said the three agreed to give themselves up after being assured that they would not be turned over to Israel and that they would be released soon.