Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Facing growing pressure from within his governing coalition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising to approve construction of Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

But he added that the construction, hotly opposed by the Palestinians, would have to begin at the appropriate time.

Netanyahu's Cabinet decided last year to lift the previous Labor government's freeze on building in the territories. Netanyahu on Tuesday met some coalition members who complained that nothing was happening on the ground.

Members of the Third Way Party and National Religious Party said this week they might leave the coalition if construction projects did not begin in the Jewish neighborhoods of Har Homa and Ras el-Amud.

However, "if we had expected to get an exact date from the prime minister…then no, we did not get that," said Deputy Education Minister Moshe Peled of the Tsomet Party.

Assad was in coma, British paper says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Syrian President Hafez Assad recently recovered from a two-week coma, a British newspaper said this week.

The 66-year-old Assad apparently collapsed in December, went into a coma and gained consciousness last month after being treated by Russian doctors flown into Damascus, The Sunday Times reported.

At the time, Syrian officials had said Assad was hospitalized for prostate surgery.

In recent years, Assad has suffered from heart problems, diabetes and a rare form of leukemia.

His ailing health has resulted in a campaign to groom his son Basher to be his successor. Basher's older brother, Basel, was killed in a car accident three years ago.

Israeli researchers find AIDS enzyme

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have isolated an enzyme that could help in developing drugs that slow down the onset of AIDS in people with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.

The team, led by David Wallach, discovered the enzyme NIK, which plays a central role in the activation of the immune system.

The findings are being published this week in the British journal Nature.