Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Ofra Haza, the singing star who rose from Tel Aviv's slums to 16 gold and platinum albums, has been hospitalized while battling influenza.

On Wednesday, Haza was listed in serious condition and was breathing through a respirator. She is being treated with drugs given intravenously and dialysis.

Her husband has remained at her bedside since she was admitted to the hospital Sunday after a long battle with influenza.

Haza is being kept sedated and is unaware of the outpouring she has received from fans.

German president asks for forgiveness

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Germany's president asked for forgiveness for the Holocaust during a speech before the Knesset on Wednesday.

Johannes Rau spoke in German — a first for a Knesset speech.

Several legislators stayed away in protest, including, from the opposition Likud Party, Danny Naveh, whose parents survived the Holocaust. Others, including Speaker Avraham Burg, whose father fled Berlin in 1939, said they had mixed feelings about hearing German spoken in the Knesset.

Mexico, Israel sign free-trade accord

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Mexico and Israel have reached a deal for a free trade agreement, according to Mexican officials.

Mexico will get tariff-free access to the Israeli market for such items as cars, trucks, buses, steel and coffee.

In exchange, Israel will be able to export duty-free to Mexico items including agricultural equipment, high-tech medical equipment and kosher instant coffee. According to the officials, bilateral trade between the two countries totaled $155 million in 1998.

Did U.S. arms kill 7 Israeli soldiers?

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Arms shipped illegally by the United States to Iran via Israel during the 1980s may have been used in recent Hezbollah attacks in southern Lebanon that killed seven Israeli soldiers.

Evidence of direct Iranian involvement in the Hezbollah attacks emerged last week.

At that time, Israeli security officials identified anti-tank missiles weapons used by Hezbollah as being among the "Irangate" consignment that was delivered to Tehran as part of the United States' Iran-Contra deal.