Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said this week that Israel is considering responding to what may be Hezbollah violations of the U.S.-brokered cease-fire in southern Lebanon.

"There are signs of violations," Mordechai told reporters Tuesday during a visit to southern Lebanon. "We will examine them, and determine ways the [Israel Defense Force] can react."

The cease-fire, reached in April's Operation Grapes of Wrath by Israel against Hezbollah, barred both sides from targeting civilian areas. It did not ban fighting altogether in Israel's southern Lebanon security zone.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah has detonated roadside charges and ambushed Israel Defense Force and Israel-allied South Lebanon Army soldiers in the area.

On Monday, two bombs exploded in separate incidents in the security zone amid conflicting reports that four Katyusha rockets were fired in the area the same day. No damage or injuries were reported.

Israel launched its air, land and sea bombardment of Lebanon in response to the Hezbollah firing of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel.

Anti-missile missile is headed for Israel

TEL AVIV (JPS) — The Nautilus laser anti-rocket system will be arriving here shortly for tests, and will be set up in northern Israel to protect against Katyushas, a senior Defense Ministry researcher said.

"The Nautilus system, developed as a joint American-Israeli project, seems to us to be the most promising defense against Katyushas," Uzi Elam, head of the ministry's weapons research and development division, told the latest edition of the Air Force Journal.

"At present, the shooting down of Katyushas is the main aim of the Nautilus system," said Brig.-Gen. Gilad Ramot, head of the Anti-Aircraft Corps, "but possibly in the future other uses will be found for the system, including shooting down planes and helicopters."

Herzog may lead peace talks in Ireland

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Former president Chaim Herzog may be asked to chair the stalled Northern Ireland peace talks, according to unofficial sources in London.

Belfast-born and raised in Dublin, Herzog is in the rare position of not only having gained substantial diplomatic and political experience during his years at the United Nations and as president, but has close family ties with Ireland without being either Protestant or Catholic.

Some key leaders among the majority Protestant community in Northern Ireland have expressed dissatisfaction with President Bill Clinton's choice to chair the talks, former senator George Mitchell, who is of Irish Catholic descent.

Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, earlier this month denounced Mitchell as "a crony of Gerry Adams," the leader of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, before storming out of the talks.

Herzog, 77, told The Jerusalem Post that he is "very flattered" that his name might be considered. "I was born into the conflict and grew up with it," he said.

Herzog served in the British army during World War II, becoming head of intelligence in Germany. His father, Isaac, was the first chief rabbi of an independent Ireland, and a lifelong friend of Irish nationalist leader and prime minister Eamon de Valera.

Office supply thefts strike across Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A wave of thefts from Israeli warehouses has led wholesale distributors of office supplies to suspect that an organized group is smuggling the goods out of Israel to the Palestinian Authority and Arab states.

In recent weeks, seven warehouses in the center of the country were robbed of an estimated $1 million worth of goods.

Insurance companies have failed to trace the goods in Israel.

In all cases, only imported products and those with English lettering on them were stolen, leading investigators to believe that they are being smuggled outside Israel.