Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli travel agent was convicted Wednesday of raping Israeli model Linor Abargil at knifepoint and trying to choke her with a rope and a plastic bag.

The assault by Egyptian-born Israeli Shlomo Nour took place last fall near Milan, seven weeks before Abargil was crowned Miss World.

After the verdict came down, Abargil said she hoped to serve as an example to other rape victims to come forward and press charges against their assailants, even at the cost of public exposure.

"Cry out. Complain. And most important, don't be afraid," she said.

Campaign launched against Benetton

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli peace group is co-sponsoring a campaign to prevent Italian textile giant Benetton from opening a plant in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Since the campaign was launched, Benetton's main offices in Italy have been flooded with protest messages, according to officials with the peace group Gush Shalom.

The officials added that Benetton asserts that the plant is being planned by a subsidiary over which the company has no control.

Israeli's Yom Kippur: returning hotel towels

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli woman decided as part of her atonement for Yom Kippur to return items she stole from a hotel near the Dead Sea.

"I decided to return all that I took because we became religious and we are sorry for those acts," the woman wrote in a letter to the Nirvana Hotel, days before Yom Kippur.

As part of her atonement, she returned to the hotel silverware, towels and a bathrobe she had taken before checking out.

After an Israeli newspaper chronicled the woman's story, two other former guests at the hotel decided to make similar gestures. The hotel said it would not prosecute the individuals.

Israel set to release more Palestinians

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel was due to release a second group of Palestinian prisoners by today, in accordance with the Sharm el-Sheik land-for-security accord signed last month in Egypt.

Twenty-eight nationals of neighboring Arab states are expected to be among the 151 prisoners Israel plans to free. Israel freed 199 Palestinian prisoners days after Israeli and Palestinian officials signed the accord at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.

Palestinian leader returns to Jericho

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine arrived Sept. 30 in the West Bank town of Jericho.

Abu Ali Mustafa, the deputy leader of the Damascus-based group that opposes the Oslo peace process, was given an entry permit by Israeli officials. Mustafa, 61, was moved to tears by his return to the West Bank for the first time since 1958.

Also known as Mustafa Zibri, he has been involved in recent efforts by Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat to reconcile with the PFLP and other so-called rejectionist groups.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has confirmed that Israel might allow Nayef Hawatmeh, the leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to enter the Palestinian Authority's self-rule area.