Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Islamic Jihad fugitive Imad Bani Uda was captured last Friday by an elite Israel Defense Force unit in the West Bank.

The soldiers found Uda disguised as a woman hiding under a sofa in his home.

To survive, El Al may fly on Shabbat

JERUSALEM (JTA) — El Al must fly on the Sabbath in order to survive economically, Israel's transportation minister said.

Avigdor Lieberman added that if El Al has not begun privatization by the end of May, he will put the airline into receivership, Israel Radio reported.

A ministerial committee decided six months ago to issue 49 percent of the airline's shares on the Tel Aviv stock market. However, workers' demand has been holding up privatization efforts.

Saudi: U.S. war timed to begin with Purim

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The U.S.-led war on Iraq was timed to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Purim, a Saudi scholar reportedly said.

Umayma Jalahama made the comments last week in a public lecture at a think tank affiliated with the Arab League, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Jalahama previously has written about the Jews' alleged use of non-Jewish blood in making holiday pastries.

Afghanistan, Israel may begin relations

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli officials say that Afghanistan is interested in normalizing relations.

The Afghani foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, recently sent a message to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Afghanistan has never had diplomatic relations with Israel.

But interim Afghani President Hamid Karzai reportedly said in June that talks on establishing relations are possible only after Afghanistan holds elections in 2004.

Iraqis defend Jews from Baghdad looters

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Iraqi Muslims helped repel looters from the cultural center of Baghdad's Jewish community on Saturday.

Security guards and neighbors turned away looters who tried several times to break into the community center and a synagogue, Agence France Presse reported.

Some 50 Jews live in Baghdad, according to reports.

Israel gets mega-mall, rollercoaster included

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel may get a mega-mall, which will feature several elements modeled after the Mall of America in Minneapolis.

Real estate mogul David Azrieli is planning to build the Mall of Israel, which will include a cinema complex, ice-skating rink and a roller coaster, in addition to stores.

Azrieli told the Globes newspaper that the mall will be built somewhere between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.