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JERUSALEM (JPS) — Iran is stepping up its financial and military assistance of Hezbollah, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shimon Peres suggested Tuesday that Iran was behind Monday's terror attack near Beit El in the West Bank, alleging once again that Tehran is trying to unseat the Labor government in an attempt to torpedo the peace process.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the Iranians have been using various routes to transfer weaponry, including through Syria. He said the administration has raised the issue with Syrian authorities.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Iran supplied from 500 to 900 Russian-made Katyusha rockets to Hezbollah forces during the fighting in Lebanon in April.

Meanwhile, a gunman was killed Tuesday in a clash with Israeli army troops in Israel's southern Lebanon security zone, as fighting there escalated following a two-week lull after the Operation Grapes of Wrath.

Amir is permitted to vote in elections

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's High Court of Justice has ruled that Yitzhak Rabin's assassin can vote in the May 29 national elections.

Yigal Amir is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting the prime minister at a Nov. 4 peace rally in Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv resident Hila Alroy had petitioned the court to revoke Amir's Israeli citizenship and his right to vote. Alroy said Amir had tried to undermine Israeli democracy by shooting Rabin.

But the court, led by Justice Aharon Barak, said the Knesset failed to set detailed criteria for denying the vote to an Israeli citizen and that removal of citizenship should be carried out only in extreme cases, such as treason.

Meanwhile, a public committee commissioned by Bar-Ilan University, where Amir was a student, concluded that the educational institution did not foster an atmosphere that contributed to Amir's decision to kill the prime minister.

After Rabin's murder, many criticized Bar-Ilan for nurturing extremism.

Palestinian beer may become kosher

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian brand of beer may soon have a kosher label.

Avraham Diesser, rabbi of a Jewish settlement near the West Bank town of Ramallah, said he would provide Orthodox certification for Taybeh Beer, adding that he would make regular visits to the local brewery to make sure there are no non-kosher ingredients in it.

Palestinian businessman Nadim Khoury began producing the microbrew, a dark, slightly sweet beer, last year.

It has already reached an appreciative audience in some Israeli bars and among some secular circles in the West Bank.

But the brew is off-limits to those adhering to Islamic law, which forbids the drinking of alcoholic beverages.

Yasser Arafat delays assigning portfolios

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has delayed announcing his ministerial assignments, amid reports that he was negotiating with Islamic fundamentalist leaders to join the self-rule authority.

Arafat last week named 23 members to the Executive Authority, which will have the functions of a Cabinet, but he did not assign portfolios, saying that he might make more appointments.

On Wednesday, Arafat told the Palestinian Council that it might take another week or so before he finalizes the list of portfolio assignments.

The 82-member Palestinian Council, elected in January, has legislative responsibilities for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Arafat was elected to head the legislative and executive branches of the council.

International force arriving in Hebron

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The first international observers overseeing the Israeli redeployment from the West Bank town of Hebron arrived this week.

A first group of 32 Norwegians began patrolling Hebron Tuesday, and another 20 Norwegians are expected.

As many as 200 men and women may participate in the Temporary International Presence in Hebron from contingents being considered from Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Turkey and Australia.

"We hope for the Israeli redeployment to happen as soon as possible, and to have the normal evolution of the social, political and cultural life as we have seen it in other Palestinian cities," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Bjorn Godal, who met Tuesday with Hebron Mayor Mustafa Natshe.

Israeli flower sales bloom for holiday

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli profits from flower exports have blossomed as a result of Mother's Day.

The Jewish state exported 15 million blooms — worth $32 million — on 42 special cargo planes.