Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Jerusalem court began closed-door hearings recently for an Israeli suspected of spying for Iran.

In an opening statement, the attorney for Herzl Rad, 31, acknowledged that his client admitted he was in Iran, but said he was innocent of any accusations related to spying.

Rad, a clothing merchant in Jerusalem, has been in detention since his arrest last summer. He is charged with spying for an enemy country, endangering national security and having contact with foreign agents.

According to the charges, Rad went to Turkey earlier this year, where he initiated contact with an Iranian intelligence officer. A month later, he was flown to Iran under an assumed name and was interviewed. After accepting him, the Iranians instructed Rad to gather information in the United States and Israel. In exchange for his services, he would be paid $10,000.

Rad allegedly promised to enter Israeli army bases and collect information.

His lawyer, Amir Zion, reiterated Rad's version of the story — that he was kidnapped from Turkey and tortured by the Iranians.

Bicycling rabbi stabbed in Old City

JERUSALEM (JPS) — A 35-year-old rabbi was stabbed in the back while riding home on his bicycle Friday afternoon last week in Jerusalem's Old City.

Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen, a teacher at Jerusalem's Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, was attacked while pedaling along David Street. His assailant fled after Cohen fired two shots in the air.

Cohen, who was taken to Hadassah Hospital, was reported in good to fair condition after undergoing a three-hour operation.

Shortly after the stabbing, police and border policemen detained dozens of Arab youths on David Street and adjoining roads. Police ordered store owners on the street to close their shops and come to the Kishle police station in the Old City, where they were questioned. Eight Arab youths remained in custody after the investigation.

David Street, a central thoroughfare bordering the Arab market, was crowded at the time of the attack. It was the second stabbing in the Old City in 10 days.

IDF forms anti-riot redeployment unit

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The Military Police have formed an anti-riot company to quell any disorders sparked by the redeployment of Israeli Defense Force troops in the territories.

A senior Central Command officer confirmed that the unit will assist police in controlling potential rioting. However, he added, the bulk of the burden will be carried by the police.

"Our expectations are that redeployment is bound to raise the level of violence and friction between both the authorities and Jewish settlers, and between the settlers and Palestinians," he said. "It is important to stress that the police will be responsible for law and order, and the IDF is only assisting."

The officer said the army does not expect violent opposition from extremist elements in the settler community when redeployment outside the main cities in the West Bank begins, but that once troops around Ramallah and Hebron are moved, "things are very likely to escalate."

Additional layoffs scheduled for IDF

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Nine hundred officers and noncommissioned officers from various Ground Corps commands will be laid off in the next few months, an army source confirmed last week.

The layoffs follow the dismissal of almost 4,000 officers and NCOs in the last four years, as part of the multiyear-plan, code-named Mirkam, Hebrew for fabric.

Among the layoffs, 600 will be career officers and NCOs from the Ground Corps' four major commands — armor, artillery, field engineering and infantry. Most serve in technical and logistic positions.

An additional 300 serve in the Ground Corps but are actually part of the Logistics Branch Corps, including ordinance, communications and electronics and the quartermaster-general.

Israeli firms design China industrial park

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli companies have said they plan to create a high-tech industrial park near Beijing, another sign of growing trade relations between the Jewish state and China.

Yi Wu, China's minister of foreign trade and economic cooperation, announced the project last week at a joint news conference here with Michael Harish, Israel's trade and industry minister.

The park will be located next to an existing Motorola plant outside the capital. It will include Israeli firms such as Elscint and its parent company, Elbit, which is involved in both defense and civilian projects.

Israel and China established diplomatic and economic ties three years ago. Bilateral trade between the two countries totaled $200 million last year.

Pensions approved for Israeli housewives

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The Cabinet Monday approved a proposal to grant pensions to housewives.

Currently, housewives are the only group in the population not entitled to such pensions. Housewives are defined in the National Insurance Law as "married women who take care of their own homes and who do not work as employees and are not self-employed."

That law was formulated some 40 years ago. Today, there are some 18,000 women each year who reach age 60, of whom only 14,500 are eligible for pensions. There are some 61,000 women over 60 who are not eligible for such pensions and who must rely on their husbands' pensions to survive.

Currently housewives are entitled to compensation for disability, nursing care, and personal injury.