Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Hafez Barghouti, the editor of the official Palestinian Authority newspaper, says he had not approved the contents of the Fatah newsletter printed last week in his paper, which called U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross a "Shylock."

The article in Al-Hayat al-Jadida states that the "biased mediator" is "part of the oppressive racist Zionist apparatus," influenced by the "Likudnik Zionist lobby in the American administration."

"Dennis Ross amuses himself on his visits like a Shylock, deriving pleasure from imagining how he will slice 3 percent from the body of the victim," the article said. The percentage is a reference to the current redeployment proposal which suggests that 3 percent of the 13 percent of the land to be handed back to the Palestinians be set aside as a nature reserve.

In Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," the infamous Jewish moneylender Shylock threatens to extract a pound of flesh for non-payment of a loan.

The United States decided not to make an official response to the newspaper, but a spokesman said the issue would be brought up at a meeting between Ross and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office denounced the article, calling the sentiments expressed "regrettable" and reiterating its position that Ross is a fair and honest broker.

Two soldiers die in Lebanon crash

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Two Israeli soldiers were killed when their armored personnel carrier plunged 1,000 feet down a cliff in the Lebanon security zone on Rosh Hashanah.

The armed personnel carrier was crushed as it tumbled over down the side of the cliff. One of the soldiers was thrown out and the other was trapped in the wreckage.

Sgt. Eran Ariel, 19, of Jerusalem and Sgt. Omer Eshed, 19, of Kfar Sava died. Both were paratroopers.

Two other soldiers were moderately wounded in separate accidents in the region on the same day.

Around the same time, another soldier was accidentally shot by a colleague during a firing exercise in the Biranit area on the northern border. The soldier was moderately wounded.

A few hours later, another Israeli soldier was moderately hurt when he was struck on the head by the barrel of a tank at an outpost in the eastern sector of the security zone.

Israel's population approaches 6 million

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's population stands at 5,987,000, of which 4,753,000, or 79.4 percent, are Jews.

Israel's Muslim population totals 886,000, or 14.8 percent of the population; Christians, 128,000, or 2.1 percent; and Druse, 123,000, or 1.6 percent. About 123,000, or 2.1 percent, are without religious classification.

The Central Bureau of Statistics releases the figures each year on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

Soviet spy Klingberg released from prison

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Ailing Marcus Klingberg was released from prison last Friday after serving more than 15 years of an 18-year sentence for spying for the former Soviet Union.

Klingberg, 80, was released following a decision by the Beersheba District Court, to which he appealed after the parole board decided not to free him after he served two-thirds of his term.

The court said it took into account his health and age. The court agreed to set him free on humanitarian grounds.

His freedom will be severely limited, however, due to opposition from the security forces, which assert he can still pass on harmful information. He will be under stringent surveillance 24 hours a day and will be permitted to leave his home for only two hours each day.

Klingberg was arrested and brought to trial, under mysterious circumstances, in 1983 while on his way to attend a scientific conference in Europe.

At the time, he was deputy director of the Ness Ziona scientific research center and was a renowned expert on biological warfare.

Israel denies claim by Goldstein widow

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government last week denied a claim by the widow of Dr. Baruch Goldstein to receive government compensation for his death.

Miriam Goldstein had claimed that her husband had been a "victim of a hostile act," a designation that would have made her eligible for state funds.

She had argued that her husband, who killed 29 Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in February 1994, was subsequently murdered by a Palestinian mob because he was Jewish.

Suspect acted alone in attempted bombing

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian accused of an attempted bombing in Jerusalem two months ago acted alone, Israeli police have ruled.

Jalal Rummana was severely burned at a Jerusalem intersection in July when a fire broke out in his van, which contained flammable liquid and bags of nails.

He served 20 months in an Israeli jail in the early 1990s for membership in Hamas, but police said last week he was not acting in concert with the group during the latest incident.

Palestinian official arrested for speech

JERUSALEM (JPS) — A senior Palestinian Authority official who addressed a Hamas rally in support of the slain Awadallah brothers was arrested for three days on orders of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.

Mohammed Mahmoud Muqbel, 50, general director of the Palestinian Authority Youth and Sports Ministry, was arrested on Sunday by the elite unit which guards Arafat. He was held in Ramallah prison and released Tuesday.

Muqbel addressed thousands of Palestinians in Ramallah last Friday at a rally which called for revenge against Israel for the Sept. 10 killing of the Imad and Adel Awadallah, who were blamed for the suicide bus bombings last year.

Muqbel called their deaths reprehensible and appealed for Palestinian unity. He said Tuesday that his arrest was "undemocratic."