Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The commander of the Israeli air force said recently that Iran, with Russian aid, has conducted a ground test of a ballistic missile capable of reaching Israel.

Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliahu said Russia had been helping Tehran develop a ballistic missile with a range of some 930 miles, which means that it could reach Israel.

Both Israel and the United States have been closely following recent developments in light of an agreement Moscow signed with Tehran to supply the Islamic state with missile technology.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his concern about Russian transfers of missile technology to Iran when he visited Moscow last month and met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Yael Dayan attacker gets three-year term

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Extreme right-wing activist Yisrael Lederman has been sentenced to three years' imprisonment for throwing a cup of hot tea at Knesset member Yael Dayan.

Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Yoram Noam also gave Lederman, a Jerusalem resident, a five-month sentence suspended for three years.

The attack occurred in October, when the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, which Dayan heads, was touring Hebron and stopped at a Jewish kiosk near the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Lederman approached the group, attracted Dayan's attention by offering a cup of tea, then flung the hot drink at her, causing second-degree burns on her neck and chest. Lederman claimed he was pushed and accidentally spilled the tea, which was disproved by a video of the incident.

Lederman, affiliated with the outlawed extremist Kach group, served three years of a 20-year sentence for murdering a Palestinian man in 1978.

Dayan, daughter of the late Moshe Dayan and an outspoken leftist and gay-rights leader, welcomed the sentencing.

Iranian's jail term upheld for piracy

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from an Iranian airline steward who hijacked a plane to Israel in 1995.

The court upheld a Beersheva court's sentencing last July of Iranian Rafa Jabari to eight years in jail for air piracy.

The justices said while Jabari's motives were not terrorist, he had endangered the passengers and crew of the plane.

In September 1995, the steward surrendered to Israeli authorities and requested asylum after hijacking a domestic Iranian Air flight to an air base in southern Israel, calling life in Iran "unbearable."

Plant signs connect shroud to Israel

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Evidence that the Shroud of Turin — the garment in which Jesus is said to have been wrapped after his crucifixion — originated in the Land of Israel has been unearthed by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Duke University in North Carolina.

The scientists identified 28 species of plants that grow in Israel among the images of flowers that appear on the shroud. All of them grow in the area between Jerusalem and Jericho, and most are spring flowers that apparently were picked during the period of the crucifixion and placed on the piece of linen.

On the shroud appears the negative image of a man with long hair and a mustache who had been cruelly whipped, and a number of blood spots were spattered on it. The human image is similar to drawings of Jesus that have been seen since the fourth century C.E.

"I can't say for certain that it was Jesus' shroud," said Hebrew University Professor Avinoam Danin, an expert on the plant life of Israel. "But this evidence backs up the possibility that it is genuine, and there is no doubt that it comes from the Land of Israel."

Israel cracks down on Hamas activists

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Israeli security forces have cracked down on Hamas activists in the West Bank over the past few days and Palestinians say dozens have been detained.

Israeli army officials confirmed that 10 Arabs suspected of hostile activity were taken into custody.

The arrests came amid a renewed campaign by Israel West Bank civil administration to uncover Hamas fronts, including mosques, charities, health institutions and schools.

At least eight people, mostly students at An Najah University in Nablus, were arrested, Hamas sources told the Associated Press. Jamal Mansour, a Hamas spokesman from Nablus, said the arrests took place over the Id al-Adha holiday.

Mansour said Hamas would not stop its attacks against Israel until Israel stopped "its measures against Hamas and the Palestinian people."

Meanwhile, the closure on the West Bank is still in effect and troops will remain on high alert throughout Pesach.