Shorts: Mideast

Israel speaking to Hamas, defying ban

Israel’s vice prime minister revealed that his government is violating its ban on talking to Hamas.

Haim Ramon said May 19 that Israel is negotiating with Hamas, the first time a government minister has acknowledged that talks are underway.

The talks appear to be taking place through Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, acting as a mediator, who met with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Sharm al-Sheik on May 19. — jta

Rockets to reach Beersheva by 2010

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip will have rockets capable of reaching Beersheva within two years, Israel’s military intelligence chief told Ha’aretz last week.

Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said that, by 2010, “every community within a [24-mile] range may come within range of the Hamas rockets: Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, even Beersheva.”

Beersheva is the commercial hub of southern Israel. — jta

Gore receives $1 million prize

Al Gore was awarded a $1 million Tel Aviv University prize for his campaign to raise environmental awareness.

The former U.S. vice president was feted May 19 at the university, where he won the Dan David Prize in the Social Responsibility With Particular Emphasis on the Environment category.

The Dan David Foundation, created in 2002, recognizes and encourages innovative and interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional boundaries. Its laureates donate 10 percent of their prize money to graduate students in their respective fields, thus contributing to the community and fostering a new generation of scholars. — jta