Shorts: Mideast

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Report: Israel using Iraqi air space

Israel is using Iraqi air space and U.S. bases in Iraq to prepare for a strike against Iran, according to an Iraqi news report.

The report, which was cited by Iranian media, quoted sources in the Iraqi defense ministry.

The sources reportedly said that using U.S. bases in Iraq would enable Israeli planes to reach Iranian targets within minutes. — jta

Settlements now terror training sites

Videos filmed by Gaza Strip terrorists show Palestinians from Hamas and Islamic Jihad training at former Gush Katif buildings, including synagogues and schools, according to the Yediot Achronot newspaper.

Gush Katif, a settlement bloc in southern Gaza, was evacuated in August 2005. About 8,000 residents were forced to leave.

Though many in the government wanted to destroy all of the Jewish public buildings in Gush Katif after it was evacuated, several government ministers supported leaving the public buildings for the benefit of the Palestinian people. Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled in September 2005 that the buildings should remain standing. — jta

Tony Blair cancels Gaza Strip trip

Tony Blair canceled a high-profile visit to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip over concerns for his safety.

Israeli sources said Defense Minister Ehud Barak advised Blair to stay away from the coastal territory. Hamas was going to provide security for Blair.

The former prime minister of England is the peace envoy for the Mideast quartet — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States. — jta

Israeli tourists told to avoid Sinai

The National Security Council/Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a travel advisory for the Sinai Peninsula, a popular destination for Israeli tourists, warning that terrorist groups operating in the area are planning to abduct Israeli vacationers in the immediate future.

The last such advisory was issued in April, shortly after Egyptian police arrested a group of men planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Sinai.

In April 2006, three simultaneous terrorist bombings in the Sinai resort town of Dahab killed 23 and wounded dozens. — jta

Rabbinate challenged on conversions

The United Jewish Communities is asking Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to intervene in a controversy over conversions.

Israel’s Rabbinical High Court suggested recently that it might annul the conversions of immigrants from the former Soviet Union performed by Rabbi Haim Drukman, the head of the conversion administration established to simplify the process in Israel, rendering up to 15,000 conversions invalid.

“As leaders of the American Jewish community, we are writing to you to express our deep concern regarding the untenable instability that has characterized the conversion system in Israel over the past few months and ask for your personal involvement,” said a letter sent July 9 to Olmert from the North American Jewish federation umbrella organization. — jta

China constructed hotel for Peres

The Chinese government decided to build a hotel within easy walking distance of the opening ceremonies stadium for the Summer Games next month — so that Israeli President Shimon Peres can attend the event without transgressing the rules of Shabbat.

The ceremonies take place Aug. 8, which is a Friday evening.

Peres initially refused to attend the ceremonies. While not religiously observant in private, he makes every effort to observe Shabbat in public. —