Mideast Report

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The situation in southern Lebanon deteriorated further this week after Hezbollah launched three attacks including a suicide bombing against Israeli troops in the region.

An Israeli army officer was killed and an Israeli civilian lightly wounded Wednesday when a Hezbollah bomber blew himself up near a convoy in the southern Lebanon security zone.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres left the door open to some kind of Israeli response, saying Israel "will see how things develop, and based on this, decide how to act."

Peres denied Israel promised the United States it would act with restraint in southern Lebanon. A day earlier, Peres denied rumors that Israel was planning a large-scale action against the militant Islamic group.

Six Israeli soldiers were also wounded, two seriously, in a roadside bombing Thursday of last week for which Hezbollah took responsibility.

Israel has fired heavy artillery against Hezbollah after each attack.

Meanwhile, Peres has told Syria that it must reign in Hezbollah, which operates freely in the Syrian-controlled Lebanon, before Israel will resume peace talks with Syria.

Israel-Syrian peace talks were suspended March 4 after Syrian failed to condemn a recent series of suicide bombings in Israel by the militant Hamas group.

State of Palestine is born, says Arafat

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has announced that areas under his control should from now on be referred to in official documents as "Palestine."

Arafat's office said this week in a statement that the West Bank would be called the Northern District and the Gaza Strip would be referred to as the Gaza District.

The terms "Gaza Strip" and "West Bank" are remnants from British control of the region, the statement said, adding that the new names would reflect the realities of Palestinian self-rule.

70 young Israelis living with AIDS

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Some 70 Israeli youngsters are known to be "living with AIDS," the head of the Israel AIDS Task Force said Monday, and the majority are able to stay in school.

Task force head Patrick Levy, who was forced to resign his position as a teacher after contracting AIDS, said the school principal, the inspector and the education minister have to be informed when a pupil has HIV.

Recent research has shown that as soon as a person tests HIV positive, he develops some of the symptoms of AIDS and therefore there is no longer a distinction between carriers and those actually sick with the virus. This is why the term "living with AIDS" has been introduced, he said.

There are officially some 1,700 people in Israel living with AIDS, Levy said, but the number of those infected is believed to be at least twice as high.

New Israeli TV polls show Peres in lead

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Polls on Thursday of last week showed the international anti-terrorism summit and a visit by President Bill Clinton may have given Prime Minister Shimon Peres a much-needed popularity boost.

A survey by Israel's Channel 1 showed Peres had regained a slight lead over Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, up by 47 percent to 45 percent. A similar poll by Israel's Channel 2 showed Peres leading 51 percent to 47 percent. Neither poll gave a margin of error or the sample size.

Israeli court rejects plea by Hamas kin

JERUSALEM (JPS) Israel's High Court of Justice Tuesday upheld the army's decision to destroy the houses of seven Hamas terrorists, saying this was not collective punishment, but an attempt to deter future suicide bombers.

The petitioners were the families of Ibrahim Sarahna, who committed the Ashkelon suicide attack three weeks ago; Majid Abu Warda, who committed the first bus No. 18 bombing in Jerusalem the same day; Labib Azem of Kafr Karyut, who committed the Ramat Gan bus bombing last July; Sufiyan Jabarin, who committed the bus No. 26 bombing in Jerusalem last August; Abed el-Majid Dudin, who recruited Jabarin; Mohiadin Sharif, who gave Jabarin the explosives used in the attack; and Iman Seedar of Abu Dis, who recruited the terrorists who committed two attacks in late 1994.

"At least some criminals are likely to be deterred from committing crimes if they are aware that this will endanger not only their lives, but also their relatives' homes," wrote Justice Gavriel Bach.