Shorts: Mideast

Abbas: Al Qaida in West Bank, Gaza

jerusalem (jta) | Mahmoud Abbas said there is an al Qaida presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority previously had denied Israeli charges that Osama bin Laden’s international terrorist network was making inroads in its territories.

Israel has been especially concerned about an al Qaida influx from Egypt to Gaza since Israel withdrew from the coastal strip last year.

Ex-Iranian leader acknowledges Holocaust

tehran, iran (jta) | Iran’s former president said the Holocaust was a historical reality.

In what is being seen as an attack on the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohammed Khatami called the Holocaust a “massacre of innocent people, among them many Jews,” the BBC reported.

Khatami, who is seen as a relative moderate, also said the Holocaust occurred, “even if this has been misused and there is enormous pressure on the Palestinian people.”

He added: “We should speak out if even a single Jew is killed.”

Olmert to cut West Bank spending

jerusalem (jta) | Israel plans to reduce spending on West Bank settlements, Ehud Olmert said.

“It is no secret that, in the coming years, we will not invest the sums that were once invested in construction and infrastructure development in areas outside the Green Line,” the interim Israeli prime minister told a Tel Aviv business conference Tuesday, March 7.

He said during his speech that the money freed up would be used to build up Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Negev.

Rabin assassin granted right to

artificial insemination

jerusalem (jta) | Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin won permission to artificially inseminate his wife.

The Justice Ministry agreed this week to Yigal Amir’s request after he lodged a High Court petition. Amir, who is serving a life prison sentence in solitary confinement for shooting the Israeli prime minister in 1995, opted for artificial insemination after being repeatedly refused conjugal visits with his wife, Larissa Trimbobler.

There was no immediate word on when the procedure would take place. Many Israelis oppose Amir enjoying the rights extended to other prisoners, even though his cause has been taken up by civil liberties experts.