Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's attorney general has determined that too much time has elapsed to prosecute Israeli soldiers who may have been involved in the alleged execution of Egyptian prisoners of war.

Michael Ben-Yair, in a statement issued this week by the Justice Ministry, called the alleged killings of Egyptian POWs during the 1956 Sinai Campaign and the 1967 Six Day War "unlawful and intolerable."

But Israel's 20-year statute of limitations for criminal acts has expired, the attorney general said.

"As a result, there is no legal possibility of bringing to trial anyone involved in incidents that took place almost 40 years ago, or 28 years ago," Ben-Yair said in the statement.

The controversy over the fate of Egyptian POWs surfaced earlier this month, when several Israeli veterans and historians came forward with claims that they had witnessed or participated in the killings during the 1956 and 1967 wars.

This week, an Israeli historian purported that some 200 Israeli POWs had been killed by Egyptian troops during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The disclosures regarding the 1956 and 1967 wars prompted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to call on Israel to investigate and prosecute those soldiers responsible for killing Egyptian POWs.

Mubarak, interviewed on Israeli television, said the investigations could prevent a crisis between the two countries.

New police dog unit to sniff out terrorism

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police have added a new unit to their ranks — 15 bomb-sniffing dogs who will go to work to find explosives in public places.

The decision to establish a canine unit came in the wake of a recent wave of suicide bomb attacks launched inside Israel by militant Islamic groups opposed to the peace process.

The dogs took up their duties Sunday at Jerusalem's mall, at the Machaneh Yehuda market and at the central bus station.

The dogs are due to begin work in Tel Aviv next week. They will later be stationed at other sites across the country.

The dogs and their handlers were trained in Virginia.

Israeli police officials chose Labrador retrievers for the bomb-sniffing detail because of their non-threatening presence and their ability to work in crowds of people, Israel Television reported.

Greenpeace members arrested in Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police arrested 13 members of Greenpeace who were protesting Sunday outside the Chinese and French embassies in Tel Aviv.

The group, which was protesting the decisions of France and China to conduct nuclear testing, had chained themselves to fences and scaffolding, spray-painted anti-nuclear messages on the sidewalk and blocked entrances to the buildings, police said.

Three of those detained were Israelis. The rest of those arrested were the captain and crew of the Greenpeace ship Altier, anchored off Tel Aviv.

The presence of the Greenpeace ship in Israeli waters was "part of a Mediterranean tour to draw attention in the region to the issue of nuclear testing," Uri Zik, director of Greenpeace in Israel, told Israel Television.

"There is nothing wrong [with] the Israeli public voicing opposition to nuclear testing, which is high on the environmental agenda of the world right now," Zik added.

Israeli air strikes hit Hezbollah in Lebanon

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli air force jets launched repeated air attacks early Sunday morning against targets of the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah movement north of the security zone in southern Lebanon.

The pilots reported good hits and all planes returned safely to base, an Israeli army spokesman said.

The raids, which began shortly after midnight, targeted hillsides used by Hezbollah to launch raids against Israel Defense Force positions in the security zone.

The air attacks followed a week of increased Hezbollah attacks on positions of the IDF and its allied South Lebanon Army in southern Lebanon.

Last week, an Israeli soldier was seriously wounded in a clash with Hezbollah gunmen in the eastern sector of the security zone.

The soldier, Gadi Yarkoni, 21, of Moshav Beit Oved near Rehovot, was flown to Haifa's Rambam Hospital, where doctors said he may lose his vision as a result of the injuries.

60 boys learn how to bomb Israelis

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Some 60 Lebanese Palestinian youths were discovered earlier this year to have enrolled in a suicide bombers' course run by a former Fatah supporter at the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp, near Sidon.

"I am here to learn how to liberate my country from the Jews," a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, Iman Hemda, was quoting as saying in the Beirut newspaper Ad-Diyar.

He said he quit school and came to the training camp. "I am now ready to carry out any mission for Palestine, now that we have become human bombs."

Mohammed, 14, said he came to the camp because he "would rather fight for Palestine than stay in the alleyways of the refugee camp. I have good reasons to die for Allah in order to rid my country from the occupier."