Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli woman was charged with attempting to kill a Palestinian by running him over with her car.

The woman, whose brother was killed in a terror attack a year ago, denied the charges during a court hearing Tuesday and said Saturday's incident at the Erez industrial zone in the Gaza Strip was an accident.

According to the indictment, Irena Starashnatzev intentionally ran over Ibrahim Martaga after attempting to run over several other Palestinians in the area.

Al-Qaida connection dies in Lebanon bomb

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The alleged leader of al-Qaida in Lebanon, Farouk al-Masri, was killed Saturday morning in a car bomb explosion outside his shop in the teeming Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon.

Islamic and Palestinian groups blamed Israel for the assassination, which they linked to the reported flying of a Israeli Air Force reconnaissance drone over the camp at the time of the explosion.

Masri, also known as Muhammad Abdel-Hamid Shanouha, was reported, however, to have more than his fair share of enemies among armed Palestinian groups in the camp and elsewhere in Lebanon.

Sharansky weighs mayoral candidacy

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky is considering running for mayor of Jerusalem as a possible Likud Party candidate if the leading potential candidate, Dan Meridor, chooses not to enter the race, political sources said Sunday.

A spokeswoman for Sharansky declined to comment Sunday on the meeting, saying only that it is "not relevant for the time being."

With Jerusalem municipal elections expected in the spring or fall, Meridor has emerged as the leading contender in the race, but neither he nor another likely contender, Labor's Avraham Burg, has announced his candidacy.

Assassination plot plagues Shas leader

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine reportedly planned to assassinate the spiritual leader of Israel's fervently religious Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Charges were brought this week against a member of a PFLP cell, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

Palestinian terrorists have considered Yosef a target ever since he spoke out against the Palestinians at the start of the intifada more than two years ago.

Joseph's Tomb is 'now destroyed'

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The Simon Wiesenthal Center has petitioned a U.N. agency "to vigorously protest the barbaric desecration of Joseph's Tomb" by West Bank Palestinians.

Shimon Samuels, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Paris office, wrote a letter of protest after a group of Jewish chaplains found last month that the site "is now destroyed, the building cracked open with hammers, a huge hole in its dome, and the grave littered with trash and car parts."

In a letter to Francesco Bandarin, director of the U.N. World Heritage Committee, Samuels also wrote, "Palestinian claims that Joseph's Tomb is also sacred to them have been vividly discredited."

Arrested man claims to be Arafat's son

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police over the weekend detained a Palestinian driving a stolen car who claimed to be Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's adopted son.

A picture was found in the car of the suspect holding a Kalashnikov rifle at Arafat's Ramallah headquarters. Arafat's daughter lives with his wife, Suha, in Paris. He is not known to have an adopted son. Police are investigating.