Shorts: Mideast

Iran sets up court to try Israelis

Iran has set up a court in Tehran to try Israelis for “genocide against humanity” committed in Gaza, according to reports.

Israelis can be tried in absentia in the court, which was set up on the basis of a 1948 United Nations convention on the prevention of genocide to which Iran is a signatory, according to an Iranian judiciary spokesman, Reuters reported.

Iran is working to get cooperation from all Islamic states, according to the report. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Dec. 30 that his country would also ask the International Criminal Court of the U.N. in the Hague to try Israeli leaders for war crimes committed in Gaza, the Fars News Agency reported. — jta

Son of Chabad couple dies from Tay-Sachs

Dov Holtzberg, the 4-year-old son of Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, has died of Tay-Sachs Disease. He was buried next to his parents and older brother, who also died of the genetic disease two years ago. Dov had been living in a long-term care facility in Jerusalem.

Jan. 1 marked 30 days since the deaths of Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, killed during terrorist attacks by Islamic gunmen on Mumbai, including the Chabad House. Moshe, the Holtzberg’s 2-year-old son, was rescued from the attacks by his nanny. — jta

IDF launches YouTube channel

The Israel Defense Forces International Press branch has created a YouTube channel which displays footage of Gaza bombing raids. It was launched as as part of the IDF’s effort to win the war in the media.

The channel includes footage of pinpoint bombing operations in Gaza as well as other video clips of army operation, including aid distribution. — jta

Palestinian worker stabs four Jews

A Palestinian worker stabbed four Jewish residents of a West Bank community, apparently in revenge for Israel’s attack on Gaza.

The handyman, who was working Dec. 29 in the town of Modi’in Illit, said, “You closed our Gaza,” and began stabbing an Israeli contractor he had known for four years, reported. The assailant then exited the apartment building he was working in and began attacking people on the street.

The Palestinian was shot and seriously wounded by a paramedic who arrived at the scene. — jta

Israeli naval vessel hits Gaza-bound boat

An Israeli naval ship collided with a boat carrying activists and journalists attempting to reach Gaza.

The boat, owned and operated by the International Solidarity Movement, which was also carrying more than three tons of medical aid, docked instead in Tyre, Lebanon, with a hole in its hull.

Free Gaza Movement activists aboard the aid boat, which did not respond to radio contact from the Israeli navy saying it was entering a closed military zone, claim that the navy ship fired on the small cabin cruiser, Reuters reported. The Israeli Foreign Ministry told Reuters that its ship did not fire any weapons.

Four other boats full of activists and supplies have been permitted by Israel to dock in Gaza port without incident since August. — jta

Specter carries word from Israel to Syria

Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) carried a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Syrian President Bashar Assad. After meeting Dec. 28 with Olmert in Israel, Specter said he “got a review of the Syrian negotiations” from the Israeli prime minister, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Syria has stopped its participation in indirect Turkish-sponsored peace talks with Israel due to the Gaza operation.

Specter left Israel on Dec. 29, and refused to discuss the details of the message he was carrying. — jta

Soldier arrested for firing at Arab home

Israel Defense Forces arrested a soldier who was caught on videotape allegedly using his military-issued automatic rifle to shoot at a Palestinian home in Hebron in late November. The incident was filmed by Issa Amro, a Palestinian resident of Hebron and employee of the B’Tselem human rights group. IDF prosecutors seek to indict the solider, identified as Cpl. Nahum Ben-Ya’acov, for the illegal use of his weapon.

Amro said that the incident occurred on Nov. 29, just days before a four-story building was evacuated of settlers in Hebron. Ben-Ya’acov’s attorney said that the soldier, who was out of uniform at the time, admitted to firing several bullets in the air, out of concern for his own personal safety and in an attempt to disperse riots. —