Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JPS) — A Hezbollah suicide bomber piloting a motorized hang-glider, apparently on his way to carry out an attack, blew up in midair Tuesday near Israel's South Lebanon security zone.

The blast was seen by Israeli army and South Lebanese army soldiers, as well as residents of the zone and U.N. troops stationed in the region.

Army sources said it is not clear whether the attack was aimed at a settlement in northern Israel or at Israeli or SLA targets in the security zone.

An Israel Defense Force spokesman said the glider exploded just beyond the security zone's northern perimeter. The spokesman said it had probably been used for a suicide mission, since it had been carrying a large amount of explosives; although the target was unclear.

The last hang-glider attack occurred in November 1987, when two or three of them manned by members of Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-General Command tried to infiltrate Israel. One of them came down inside the zone and the pilot was killed.

Israeli army loses fewer soldiers in '95

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Fifty-one Israeli soldiers were killed in action during 1995, 23 of them in Lebanon, according to an annual army report to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The number of army suicides, 43, was the same as in 1994. Twenty soldiers were killed in accidents.

According to the accident statistics, five soldiers died in air accidents, three in operational accidents, two in training accidents, five in road accidents, two in work accidents, two in unspecified accidents, and one in an accident with a weapon.

Of the 43 suicides, 29 were male and five were female soldiers in compulsory service; five were professional soldiers; and four were in reserve duty. For the first time in many years, none of the suicide victims was a new immigrant.

Ancient residence found in Qumran

JERUSALEM (JPS) — A hitherto unknown residential quarter inhabited by the Dead Sea sect 2,000 years ago has been identified by archeologists excavating outside the ruins of Qumran.

Two inhabited caves and a circle of stones that formed the base of a tent were uncovered in a dig conducted by Dr. Hanan Eshel, of Bar-Ilan University, and Magen Broshi, former curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum.

Broshi and Eshel said their find supports the theory that the monastery-like compound at Qumran was a motherhouse used by sect members living in the surrounding area.

A number of researchers have argued that the sect members lived entirely within the Qumran compound itself. At least one leading scholar has termed Qumran a military fortress unconnected to the Dead Sea Scrolls and not the motherhouse of an ascetic desert sect.

The archeologists did not find any new scrolls — the fantasy of any excavator at Qumran — but they expressed optimism about the chances of finding some when the dig resumes.

Israeli newspaper averts closure again

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli daily Davar Rishon has survived another threatened shutdown, for now.

The paper, which first went to press 70 years ago, was set to publish its final issue Friday of last week.

But in an 11th-hour meeting, a management company agreed to look for investors.

The paper, previously called Davar, was founded by Israel's Histadrut trade union federation.

The newspaper was taken over by employees last year and renamed after Histadrut officials decided that they could not provide the funds to cover the paper's growing deficit.

The newspaper, with a circulation of about 20,000, continued to be published under the leadership of veteran journalist Ron Ben Yishai.

Ex-terrorists among Palestinians to Gaza

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel says it will allow Palestine National Council members — including some formerly leading terrorists — to meet in the Gaza Strip, where they are expected to revoke the anti-Israel clauses from the Palestine National Covenant.

Prime Minister Shimon Peres said last month that Israel would allow those members of the council who were living abroad, including staunch foes of Israel, to enter areas under Palestinian self-rule to attend the vote on the charter.

Among the 154 PNC members approved by Israel on Tuesday was Leila Khaled, a member of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who in 1969 hijacked a TWA Rome-Tel Aviv flight and in 1970 hijacked an El Al jet.

Khaled, born in Haifa in 1944, claims to have since moved away from the militantly anti-Israel Popular Front. She has reportedly been teaching in Amman.