Shorts: Mideast

Israel to build in East Jerusalem

Israel announced plans this week to build hundreds of new homes in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

The Housing Ministry will accept construction bids for 763 new housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev and 121 in Har Homa.

The projects, Housing Minister Zeev Boim said, are part of the Israeli government’s effort to “bolster” the capital. Pisgat Ze’ev and Har Homa are on land that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and where Palestinians want to found a state, though they are included in Jerusalem municipal limits. — jta

Nuclear inspectors to visit Syria

The U.N. nuclear watchdog will send investigators to Syria this month to inspect a site bombed by Israel.

Mohamed ElBar-adei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said this week that Damascus has agreed to admit an IAEA team from June 22 to 24. The inspectors will visit al Kibar, a nuclear reactor site bombed by Israeli warplanes last year.

The IAEA also wants to look at two other sites suspected of concealing secret nuclear activities.

“I look forward to Syria’s full cooperation in this matter,” ElBaradei said.

Syria, which has denied having a military nuclear program, plowed over al Kibar after the Israeli attack, a move that analysts said could be aimed at concealing evidence. — jta

Iranian president keeps yapping

Iran’s IRNA news agency is quoting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying Israel will disappear from the world map soon.

According to IRNA, in his latest anti-Israel rhetoric Ahmadinejad said that “criminal and terrorist Zionist regime” with a track record of “60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes … has reached the end … and will soon disappear from the geographical” charts. — ap

Gaza students lose, then regain grants

The United States has reinstated the Fulbright scholarships of seven Gaza Strip students blocked by Israel from leaving the Hamas-ruled territory, the U.S. State Department said this week.

The students learned last week that their scholarships for the upcoming academic year would be deferred because they couldn’t get out of Gaza, which Israel has blockaded since Islamic Hamas militants seized power a year ago.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. reversal came on orders from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Named for the late Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright, the grants are the flagship U.S. government educational exchange program. The $198 million annual program brings 7,000 foreign students to the U.S. — ap

Hamas erases textbook progress

A new study says Palestinian textbooks portrayed Israel and Jews a bit better for a while, but the progress was wiped out by the Islamic Hamas.

Arnon Groiss, author of the report “Palestinian Textbooks: From Arafat to Abbas and Hamas,” said this week that most of the textbooks issued under the late Yasser Arafat’s rule did not acknowledge any historical Jewish presence in ancient Palestine — nor did they show modern-day Israel appear on maps.

But in grade 11 books issued under the moderate Abbas, there are two maps showing Israel. The textbooks issued under Abbas’ rule also include a discussion of Jewish history in the region, the report said.

However, in 2006, the militant Islamic Hamas came to power and issued a grade 12 textbook that reversed those steps. — ap