Shorts: Mideast

Christian group gives $22 million to Israel

jerusalem (jps) | The Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews said this week that its organization had contributed more than $22 million to Israel over the last year.

The donations that the organization received, primarily from evangelical Christian supporters of Israel in the United States, went to welfare, immigration and absorption, as well as to security-related causes.

“During this period, when we are witness to ever-increasing anti-Semitism around the world, and to the growing strength of Islamic extremism, it is good to know that there is such significant support [of Israel] among Christian evangelicals, who represent a third of the population of the United States,” Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Close call over Dimona

jerusalem (jta) | Two Israeli pilots were almost shot down over the Dimona nuclear reactor.

Israel’s Channel Two television reported this week that the accidental overflight a few weeks ago prompted the Israel air force to scramble two jets with orders to determine whether the ultra-light planes were piloted by terrorists. When their identity was determined, they were turned away from the desert reactor.

Dimona has its own military garrison with orders to repel all intruders. On June 5, 1967, an Israeli fighter pilot who returned from a bombing run in Jordan strayed too close to the reactor and was shot down.

Israel TV shows video of nuclear site

jerusalem (ap) | An Israeli television station showed a video of Israel’s top secret nuclear facility in the southern town of Dimona last week, the first detailed video of the site ever shown to the public.

The 14-minute video depicted a pastoral setting of well-manicured lawns and palm trees, swaying gently in a light desert breeze. The telltale shape of the nuclear reactor loomed in the background, flanked by a low-slung three-story building.

A spokeswoman for Channel 10 television, which broadcast the video, wouldn’t say how it was obtained. However, Israel’s normally cautious military censor approved its release, suggesting it was produced in cooperation with Israel’s top secret nuclear agency.’

Study: Israeli air force pilots suffer dental damage

tel aviv (ap) | Flying fighter jets isn’t good for your teeth.

About 70 percent of Israel’s air force pilots suffer from bruxism, or jaw clenching and teeth grinding, according to the soldier’s weekly, Bamahane.

The results were based on a study of 57 young, healthy pilots by the Israeli air force medical branch, the weekly reported in its current edition.

Bruxism, which can cause pain and permanent dental damage, can be triggered by tension.

Putin: Israel propped up Ukraine opposition

jerusalem (jps) | Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Israeli officials aided Ukrainian opposition candidate Viktor Yuschenko on the campaign trail has led to a serious break in Russian-Israeli relations, Channel 2 TV reported this week.

Putin further accused Israel of financing Yuschenko in the presidential race against Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the candidate he preferred.

The Russian president claimed that the Israeli government could have prevented the financial sponsorship of Yuschenko. Putin’s close associates additionally charged Israel of supporting the Russian opposition. Israel denies the charges, the Channel 2 report noted.

Terror exacts fewer casualties

jerusalem (jps) | Israeli tactics have reduced deaths from Palestinian terrorism, according to the Shin Bet.

Data released by the security agency last week indicated there were 45 percent fewer Israeli deaths from Palestinian attacks in 2004 compared to a year earlier. Credit was given to military sweeps and the West Bank security barrier, which ensured that there were only 15 suicide bombings in 2004, down from 26 the year before.

But the report noted that long-range Palestinian attacks have mounted in the Gaza Strip. Rocket salvoes against Israeli targets are up by almost 200 percent, and mortar barrages by 74 percent.

Pollard denied Prisoner of Zion’ status by Israel

jerusalem (jta) | Israel turned down an appeal to designate Jonathan Pollard a “Prisoner of Zion.”

An Israeli committee that seeks the release of Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst imprisoned since 1986 for spying for Israel, asked Israel to grant the symbolic status, used in the 1980s to increase pressure on the Soviets to release prisoners.

The ministry turned down the request this week, saying Pollard’s espionage could not be classified as “Zionist activity.”

Constitutional reform campaign launched in Egypt

cairo (ap) | An Egyptian democracy group, supported by opposition parties and human rights organizations, launched a campaign this week to amend the nation’s constitution to allow multi-candidate presidential elections.

Egyptians currently choose a president by voting “yes” or “no” in a referendum for a sole candidate. The candidate is chosen by parliament, which has been dominated by the National Democratic Party and its predecessor since parties were legalized in the 1970s.

“Seven candidates took part in [Palestinian Authority] elections under 38 years of [Israeli] occupation. The Egyptian citizen is no less capable of choosing a president among several candidates, but the rulers know that they will lose in any free election,” said Hussein Abdel-Raziq, who heads the Committee for the Defense of Democracy.

Technion develops bomb detection technology

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli researchers have created a device that can detect an explosive substance used frequently in terrorist attacks.

The Peroxide Explosive Tester detects the presence of the previously undetectable triacetone triperoxide, which has been used in bus bombings in Israel.

“TATP and other explosives of the peroxide family are used extensively by terrorist organizations around the world because they are easy to prepare and very difficult to detect,” said Ehud Keinan, lead researcher on the project at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. Many of the devastating suicide attacks by terrorists over the past few years involved TATP.

The device looks like a three-color ballpoint pen and releases three chemical mixtures that change color when they come in contact with TATP.

Islamic Movement leader sentenced

haifa (jta) | The leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for funneling money to Hamas.

Raed Salah was sentenced Jan. 11 in Haifa Magistrate’s Court. Four other leaders of the radical Islamist group were sentenced along with Salah; they received prison terms of two- to four-and-a-half years. However, under terms of a plea bargain and because of time already served, Salah will be released in six months, and three of the others sentenced will be released in the next few days.