Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli security forces have uncovered a Hamas terrorist cell in the Hebron area whose members are suspected of involvement in attacks against Israel.

Israel Radio reported that in recent weeks, security forces had detained dozens of residents from villages around Hebron and Bethlehem. The radio said suspected members of the cell were being questioned.

Earlier this year, Israel arrested members of a Hamas terrorist cell from the Hebron-area village of Tsurif, which was responsible for murdering 11 Israelis and wounding dozens in attacks over the past two years.

The six-member cell was responsible for the kidnap-murder of Israeli soldier Sharon Edri, whose body was recovered when the cell was cracked, as well as for the suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv cafe in March, in which three Israeli women were killed.

Three members of the cell are held by Palestinian security forces.

Jordanian soldier faces death in killings

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Jordanian soldier who shot dead seven Israeli schoolgirls on the border between the two countries will go on trial next week in a military court outside of Amman.

A five-member panel, headed by a brigadier general, will hear the case. Prosecutors said Ahmed Daqamsa, a 28-year-old driver, will be charged with premeditated murder for the March incident, an offense that carries the death penalty if convicted.

Daqamsa's lawyer said his client did not deny that he shot the girls who were on an outing at the Naharayim enclave, but that he was provoked by the girls' making fun of him while he was performing noon prayers.

He said his client also said that he considered the shooting a "nationalist" act.

Sharon says water should go to Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rightist minister Ariel Sharon has proposed that Israel declare its sovereignty over large portions of the West Bank in order to ensure control over water sources.

Sharon, the national infrastructure minister, raised the proposal at a meeting of senior ministers on the future of Israeli water sources, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

Implementation of the plan would require that Israel significantly reduce the amount of land it eventually transfers to the Palestinian Authority, Ha'aretz reported.

Sharon proposed that in return, Israel would triple its water supply to Palestinian towns. The Palestinians would also be obliged to build purification systems for waste water and sewage in order to prevent the contamination of water sources.

Sharansky, Big Blue to match chess wits

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Natan Sharansky is going to try his luck next month against Deep Blue, the IBM computer that defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in a six-game match earlier this month.

After Israel's trade and industry minister expressed interest in taking on the supercomputer, IBM invited him to play during an official business trip to the United States slated for next month.

Though no grand master, Sharansky perfected his chess game during the nine years he spent in a Soviet jail as a political dissident before coming to Israel in 1986. Last year, Sharansky won a game against Kasparov, who was playing 25 games simultaneously.

For his part, Kasparov, who is currently in Israel to inaugurate the opening of a new chess center, said he wanted to take the computer on again.