Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Five Israeli Arab youths have admitted to setting fires in central Israel near an Arab village where police and residents recently clashed.

The fires were part of the four days of forest blazes that burned out of control in northern and central Israel last week, causing thousands of inhabitants to evacuate the area north of Haifa.

The youths apparently told police the arson was revenge for police aggression against Arab demonstrators during a recent land dispute.

Other fires were apparently caused by Sukkot picnickers who left coals burning.

Army denies firing on Palestinian van

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The Israel Defense Force denied that troops opened fire on a van of Arab laborers south of Hebron on Sunday, asserting Palestinian terrorists may have fired the shots that wounded three passengers.

Abdullah Abu Sharkh, the van's driver, told news agencies that Israeli border police shot at them near the village of Dahiriya. The driver said he had been traveling on back roads to skirt a military checkpoint because some of the laborers did not have work permits.

Abu Sharkh told the Associated Press that the border police had signaled for him to stop and then fired four bullets into one side of the van when he did not. He added that police smashed one of the side windows and started to drag workers out of the van and then suddenly left them.

The three workers were treated at a Hebron hospital for bullet wounds to the legs and arms.

The IDF's initial investigation discounted that border police shot at any vehicle driven by a Palestinian in the Dahiriya area.

"In light of the fact that the van had yellow license plates, the IDF is examining the possibility that Palestinian terrorists may have fired at the vehicle thinking it was an Israeli car," the IDF stated.

Israeli sails away with silver medal

JERUSALEM (JPS) — For the second successive year, Amit Inbar has won the silver medal at the world sailing championships.

On Saturday, 27-year-old Inbar finished second behind New Zealand's Aaron McIntosh after the 11 sails in seven days of competition ended in Brest, France.

Last year, Inbar was runner-up in the championships in Australia and earlier this year he won the gold medal at the European championships in Greece.

Arafat fires minister on corruption charge

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat has fired a deputy minister amid charges of corruption.

Palestinian Deputy Labor Minister Hisham Anbtawi had been widely accused of graft and mismanagement, and Arafat was besieged by demands for the deputy minister's removal.

"We are serious in our efforts to rearrange the internal affairs at the ministry," Labor Minister Rafik Natshe said Saturday. "We are carrying out the responsibility of dealing with any mistakes that have been made."

Slew of gold coins found at Beit She'an

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli archaeologists have found a sixth-century jug filled with hundreds of gold coins at a site near Beit She'an.

An official with Israel's Antiquities Authority said this week the find would be turned over to the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem after the coins were cleaned and counted.