Shorts: Mideast

Sharon death threats identified

jerusalem (jta) | As many as 200 far-right Israelis want to see Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dead, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet service said.

“There are between 150 and 200 Jews who actively wish for the death of the prime minister,” Avi Dichter was quoted as telling the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on July 20.

Dichter said the biggest concentration of far-right vigilantes were to be found in the West Bank.

Gaza settler population growing

jerusalem (jta) | The number of Israelis living in settlements slated for evacuation is rising, according to government statistics.

The percentage has increased in the Gaza Strip by more than 4 percent since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his Gaza withdrawal plan in January, as opposed to only 1.5 percent in the preceding six months.

Rabbis opposing the withdrawal are recruiting new settlers ahead of the September 2005 withdrawal, the Jerusalem Post cited settler leaders as saying July 19.

Judge’s murder creates mystery

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli judge involved in lawsuits filed by terrorism victims against the Palestinian Authority was killed July 19.

Adi Azar, a judge with Tel Aviv District Court, was shot dead by unknown assailants outside his home in Ramat Hasharon.

Police said they assumed a criminal motive but had not ruled out the possibility that Arabs carried out the attack, given that Azar’s last case involved imposing a lien on Palestinian Authority funds following a petition by terrorism victims.

The Web site of Israel’s daily Yediot Achronot said the Fatah movement’s terrorist wing, the Al-Aksa Brigade, claimed responsibility for the killing, but Israeli officials said they could not confirm it. The killing is believed to be the first murder of a judge in Israeli history.

Close call for café

jerusalem (jta) | A Palestinian suicide bomber reached the doorstop of a Jerusalem café, and then apparently changed his mind about the attack.

The Shin Bet on July 18 lifted a gag order on the July 11 incident, which spared the Caffit eatery in the capital’s German Colony neighborhood.

According to security sources, the Hamas terrorist arrived at the cafe’ armed with a pistol and bomb belt, intent on shooting the guard, storming in and detonating the explosives.

But he apparently changed his mind and fled to the West Bank city of Hebron. Israeli commandos killed the man in a shootout on July 16, and at least two accomplices are in Shin Bet custody.

Israel at AIDS parley

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli AIDS education group joined the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok this week. The Jerusalem AIDS Project, which offers AIDS education strategies to developing countries, joined the six-day conference, which was set to end July 23.

Representatives of the group helped lead a session on spirituality and AIDS and discussed the Jewish perspective on the disease.

They also joined an interfaith exhibition with 50 faith-based organizations, said IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian aid group. According to IsraAID, faith-based groups took a high profile at the conference, with heavy participation and coordination among many faiths for their efforts.