Shorts: Mideast

Almost 3,000 terror attacks in ‘truce’

jerusalem (jps) | An annual summary of terror activities for 2005 released by the Shin Bet last week revealed that a total of 2,990 terror attacks were launched against Israeli targets.

The attacks occurred during a truce agreed upon by the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and Fatah’s al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

According to the report, motivation among all the terror groups to attack Israel remains high, with the number of monthly terror alerts averaging 57.

There was a significant decrease in the number of Israeli fatalities stemming from terror attacks in 2005, with 45 Israelis killed, a 60 percent reduction from the 117 Israelis killed in such attacks in 2004.

Yet, in 2005 there was a significant increase in Kassam rocket attacks on Israel with 377 recorded, compared with 309 in the previous year. At the same time there was a decrease in mortar shellings with 848 launched in 2005 compared with 1,231 in 2004. There was also a drop in bombing attacks with 199 recorded in 2005 compared with 592 in 2004.

Likud to quit Sharon’s Cabinet

jerusalem (jta) | The Likud Party plans to resign from Israel’s government.

Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu announced the walkout Tuesday, Jan. 3, saying Likud ministers would tender resignations at the next weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Jan. 8.

The move has been expected since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon quit the Likud last year to form his new, centrist Kadima Party.

“The Likud must serve as an alternative to the Sharon government’s policies,” Netanyahu said in a statement. The Likud lags in opinion polls behind Kadima and the Labor Party ahead of the March 28 general election.

Kadima ministers will take over the Likud’s portfolios as a caretaker Cabinet.

New outposts erected in West Bank

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli settlers said they had set up 13 new illegal outposts in the West Bank.

The Land of Israel Faithful said this week that its members had cobbled together the makeshift outposts near established communities as part of efforts to stop any further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank.

The army said that if the outposts weren’t evacuated voluntarily, it would dismantle them. Under the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan with the Palestinians, Israel is obligated to raze dozens of West Bank outposts. Implementation has been sketchy, but the government vowed to crack down after it completes its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian census to double by 2029

jerusalem (jps) | The Palestinian Authority’s Central Bureau of Statistics claimed last week that the estimated number of Palestinians around the world is 10.1 million.

The figure includes the 1.1 million Israeli Arabs and the 220,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem.

The report predicted that the number of Palestinians would double in 23 years. Of the Palestinian population in Palestinian Authority areas, 2.4 million live in the West Bank, while 1.4 million are in the Gaza Strip.

Israel says: no secret synagogue

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s Islamic movement accused Jews of secretly building a synagogue under the al Aksa mosque.

Movement leader Sheik Raed Salah claimed this week that Jews have prayed in a five-room complex built under cover of excavations on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, 100 yards from the site of al Aksa.

Salah has a history of fabricating incendiary charges about the Temple Mount to whip up Muslim anger against Israel, and Israel’s Antiquities Authority said his latest salvo had no basis in reality.

Fewer from former Soviet republics making aliyah

jerusalem (jta) | Immigration to Israel from the former Soviet Union decreased by 10 percent in 2005.

According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, 9,124 immigrants from the former Soviet republics arrived in Israel in 2005. The number accounted for 40 percent of all immigrants to Israel this year. Aliyah from Ukraine was down 24 percent in 2005, while immigration from Moldova was down 8 percent and immigration from the Caucasus and Central Asian countries was down 13 percent.

At the same time, the number of immigrants from Belarus rose by 26 percent and from the Baltic states by 13 percent. Immigration from Russia also increased slightly.

1 in 3 kids lives below poverty line

jerusalem (jps) | One out of every three children in Israel lives below the poverty line, an increase of almost 3 percent over last year, according to figures in the annual report of the National Council for the Child.

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman presented the report last week to President Moshe Katsav, emphasizing that lack of investment in the education, health and welfare of Israel’s children and youth will harm society as a whole.

Katsav said that the data showed a failure on the part of the state, society and the family to protect the nation’s children. “This is our most basic duty, and we must commit all possible resources to protecting our children,” the president said.

Palestinians look to delay election

jerusalem (jta) | Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said this month’s Palestinian elections would be delayed if Israel prevents Arabs in Jerusalem from voting.

The comments are the most serious indication to date that the Palestinian parliamentary elections, scheduled for Jan. 25, could be postponed.

Israeli officials say they have yet to decide whether to allow Jerusalem Arabs to participate in the vote. There has been speculation that the Palestinian Authority wants to delay the elections because of political gains by Hamas.

Fan ‘weds’ dolphin

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli dolphin “married” his top fan.

Sharon Tendler, described in media reports as a 41-year-old British millionaire, donned a wedding dress and veil this week for a wet “wedding” with Cindy, a crowd-pleaser at the Eilat Dolphinarium.

Tendler said she became besotted with Cindy, a sleek 35-year-old male dolphin, after seeing him on a visit to the resort years ago.

“I am so overjoyed,” she said, but cautioned, “I am no pervert.” The wedding was consecrated with a gift of mackerel.