Shorts: Mideast

Orthodox renew protest against gay parade

Heads of the Orthodox communities in Jerusalem have decided to renew their protestations against holding a gay pride parade in Jerusalem on June 21.

Representatives of the haredi and National Religious streams claim the parade directly impinges upon their freedom. Some of the possible measures under consideration are blocking of roads in secular neighborhoods, vandalizing businesses and entertainment venues open on Shabbat and a huge haredi rally in the heart of Tel Aviv’s Ramat Aviv neighborhood.

Police say they will not tolerate any attempt to disturb the peace in the capital and will use any means to curtail any such disturbances. — jps

June 13 runoff set for Labor Party head

Minister Ehud Barak and retired admiral Ami Ayalon will vie for the position as head of the Labor Party in a June 13 runoff.

In an election held Monday, May 28, the two trounced the current head of Labor, Amir Peretz. But neither Barak nor Ayalon passed the threshold of votes — 40 percent — required for an outright win.

Barak came out ahead in the first round, with 35.6 percent of votes to Ayalon’s 30.6 percent. But he is expected to have greater difficulty drawing Peretz and his supporters — who accounted for 22.4 percent of votes — to his side.

Both Ayalon, the former Shin Bet security services chief, and Barak have said they will remove Labor from the ruling coalition unless Prime Minister Ehud Olmert steps down or sets a date for early elections. Polls show Peretz, who was censured for his actions as defense minister by the commission investigating last summer’s Lebanon war, trailing. — jta

Palestinian held in death of Kahane’s son

An elite Israeli army unit arrested a senior commander of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Ramallah who allegedly was responsible for the deaths of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s son and several Israelis.

Officials said Khaled Shawish was behind dozens of attacks, including suicide bombings in Jerusalem and shooting attacks on roads in the Ramallah area. One of the Ramallah attacks killed Rabbi Binyamin Ze’ev Kahane, son of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and his wife, Talia, in December 2002.

Shawish has been wanted by the Israel Defense Forces since 2000.

Meanwhile, the ultra-nationalist Kach party, designated a terror organization and outlawed 18 years ago, intends to petition the High Court of Justice to reinstate its legal status and allow its members to run for the Knesset. The elder Kahane founded the party. — jta

Olmert endorses Peres

Ehud Olmert endorsed Shimon Peres, 83, as a candidate for the Israeli presidency. The Israeli prime minister urged his Kadima faction to support Peres’ run for head of state in a Knesset vote June 13.

Peres, Olmert’s top deputy, will be running against Reuven Rivlin of the Likud Party and Colette Avital of Labor. Peres was favored for the presidency, a mostly ceremonial role, in 2000 but lost out to Moshe Katsav. — jta

Israeli rejects Amnesty findings

Amnesty International claims Israeli troops killed more than 650 Palestinians last year — half of them unarmed civilians including some 120 children — a threefold increase from 2005.

The Israeli military said it “does its utmost to avoid harming innocent people … in contrast to terror organizations that do their utmost to harm innocent civilians.”

It also said the report was “rife with inaccuracies” and rejected what it called “the attempt to equate terror organizations” with a “democratic state that acts within the confines of the law to exercise its right to defend itself, its sovereign territory and civilians against terror organizations.”

In its annual 2007 global report, Amnesty International also criticized Israel for deepening the poverty in Palestinian territories by withholding customs duties and widening a network of blockades and other travel restrictions.

The group accused soldiers and settlers of committing “serious human rights abuses, including unlawful killings, against Palestinians, mostly with impunity.” No such killings were documented in the report. — ap

Man pins down night intruder — leopard

A nature guide wrestled and pinned a leopard that had leaped through a window of his bedroom. Arthur Du Mosch, 49, a resident of the Ben Gurion Field School in the Negev, woke up Monday, May 28 to find the leopard chasing after his pet cat in his bedroom.

Du Mosch, wearing only underwear and a T-shirt, pounced on the leopard, holding it in a headlock before park rangers arrived to take it away. Du Mosch’s cat was in the bed with him at the time, along with his young daughter who had been frightened by a mosquito in her own room. “This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day,” said Du Mosch, who was lightly scratched in the incident. “I don’t know why I did it. I wasn’t thinking, I just acted.” — jta