Shorts: Mideast

Saudis to invite Jews to interfaith confab

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah plans to convene an interfaith conference that will include Jews.

The conference will be a gathering for Muslims, Christians and Jews, according to the Saudi-owned al Sharq al Awsat newspaper.

It would mark the first time that Jews have been included in religious dialogue in Saudi Arabia. — jta

Saddam targeted U.S. ambassador

A former U.S. ambassador to Israel was targeted for assassination by the Saddam Hussein regime, according to declassified Iraqi documents.

Martin Indyk was listed in a U.S. Institute for Defense Analyses report released this week by the Pentagon on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Indyk, who served two separate diplomatic terms in Tel Aviv, is mentioned in a letter to Baghdad from terrorist leaders in the Gaza Strip. The suggestion to “eliminate” Indyk was based on his apparent involvement in cooperative activities between Israelis and Palestinians. — jta

Israel practices Gaza takeover

Israel’s armed forces held a war game to simulate a takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Combined units from various Israeli military corps held a four-day drill in the southern desert last week aimed at anticipating the challenges of a large-scale Gaza invasion.

In addition to crushing Hamas, Israeli forces would be called on in such a situation to stop cross-border rocket fire by Palestinian terrorists while ensuring that humanitarian supplies continue to reach civilians.

According to military officials, Israel could assume control over Gaza within a relatively short time, though they believe dozens of soldiers would die in the operation. — jta

Gay Palestinian allowed into Israel

A 33-year-old gay Palestinian man from Jenin has recently been granted a temporary residency permit by the Israel Defense Forces in order to reunite with his Israeli partner who lives in Tel Aviv.

Several years ago, the Palestinian filed a request with the Interior Ministry to receive residency status in Israel that would enable him to live with his lover for the past eight years, a computer engineer in his 40s.

After he realized that obtaining the permit may take years, the man decided to seek the help of the IDF representative in the territories. In a letter to the IDF, the man noted that ever since his family learned of his gay relationship with an Israeli man, he has been facing an ongoing threat to his life. —

Carter, Annan proposal rebuffed

Israel turned down an offer by Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan to mediate a cease-fire with Hamas.

The former U.S. president and former U.N. secretary-general belong to the Elders, an international conflict-resolution group established last year by British tycoon Richard Branson.

Several weeks ago, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem received a proposal that Carter and Annan come to Israel along with two other Elders, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Irish President Mary Robinson, to pursue a truce with Hamas and promote peacemaking with the Palestinian Authority.

“Nothing good could come out of this initiative,” said Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. — jta

Hamas leader arrested for attack

A Hamas leader suspected of involvement in the 2002 Passover suicide bombing was arrested.

Omar Jaber, the head of the Palestinian Islamist terrorist group in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, was taken into custody March 26 by Israeli security forces.

Jaber will be prosecuted for helping recruit the Hamas suicide bomber who struck the Park Hotel in Netanya on a seder night, killing 30 and wounding more than 140. — jta

Israelis willing to conserve water

A majority of Israelis are willing to reduce consumption in response to a water crisis, a survey found.

In a Society for Protection of Nature in Israel and Institute for Geocartography survey, more than 90 percent of respondents said they were aware of the crisis — Israel’s reservoirs have hit a 10-year low, and rainfall for this year stands at nearly 60 percent of the annual average.

Seventy-three percent of respondents said they would be willing to reduce their water use significantly to prevent serious harm to nature. — jta