Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Two Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush near the Gush Etzion settlement outside Hebron this week.

Maj. Oz Tivon, a doctor, and medic Yaniv Shimol were killed Tuesday night when their vehicle came under fire near Beit Ummar, just south of Gush Etzion.

The attack occurred on the main road from Hebron to Jerusalem. It was not immediately clear whether the terrorists fired from a stationary ambush or from a passing car.

Preliminary reports indicated that at least one of the soldiers got out of the car and fired at the terrorists.

A caller identifying himself as a member of the Mujahadin el-Islam, a previously unknown organization, told Army Radio that the attack was carried out in revenge for the assassination of Yehiya Ayash two weeks ago.

The Israeli army declared the region a closed military zone, and began searches in a number of Arab villages between Halhoul and Gush Etzion.

'95 inflation rate lowest in 26 years

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The inflation rate for 1995 plummeted from the previous year's 14.5 percent to 8.1 percent — the lowest in 26 years, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics said Monday.

"We are in a period of stable inflation," Finance Minister Avraham Shohat said, adding that he expects this year's rate to remain between 8 percent and 10 percent.

December's consumer price index rose 1.2 percent, the bureau also announced.

Shohat attributed the lower-than-expected inflation to a combination of factors, including increased imports, the high supply of housing, and the government's monetary policy.

U.S. denies Clinton decided Pollard case

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv denied a report on Israel's Channel 1 that President Bill Clinton had decided not to pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.

"The Pollard case has not reached the president's desk, and therefore he has taken no decision," read an embassy statement.

Meanwhile, Likud MK Ariel Sharon accused the 1984 national unity government Monday of "handing over" Pollard to the United States.

Sharon said he had told then-prime minister Shimon Peres and foreign minister Yitzhak Shamir not to submit documents that could incriminate Pollard.

Shin Bet captures Hamas attackers

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency said Sunday that it broke up a Hamas cell in the West Bank town of Kalkilya, arresting two of its members.

The Palestinian Police arrested two others as well.

Hasraad Sulim and Nassim Shanti, the pair captured by Israel, said they slightly wounded an Israeli when they fired at a car near Nablus Nov. 10, the Shin Bet said.

They said the two were recruited into Hamas in mid-1994, and along with their two comrades, planned to attack an Israeli car, kill its driver and passengers, steal their weapons, and then blow up the car.

The attack went awry when the other passengers in the Israeli car fired back, and the four fled, the Shin Bet said.

Israeli vows to help Jordanian TV figure

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The chairman of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, Ze'ev Shore, has vowed to help the head of Jordan Television's Hebrew-language department, who has been virtually unemployed since the signing of the Israel-Jordan peace pact.

Shore's promise came after he received a letter requesting assistance from Ahmed Barahat, who was also the chief announcer on Jordan TV's Hebrew-language broadcasts.

In his letter to Shore, which was written in Hebrew, Barahat said that Hebrew-language broadcasts had ceased since the signing of the peace treaty.

Shore said he would speak to both the Jordanian and Israeli ambassadors about the matter.

Minister: Israel must help diaspora Jewry

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The time has come for Israel to ask itself not only "what it can receive from the diaspora, but also how it can aid diaspora Jewish communities in their struggle for continued Jewish existence," an Israeli government minister said last week.

Minister without Portfolio Yehuda Amital said during a trip to Moscow for the Russian Jewish Congress that although no Jewish community faces an existential danger, and Israel is not threatened with war, the Jewish people worldwide face a grave threat.

"Our obligation is to develop in every Jew — both in Israel and the diaspora — feelings of belonging with the Jewish people, as well as an understanding of the significance of this belonging," Amital said.

"We must go back and develop the basic feelings of love for Jewish people and brotherly relations toward every Jew," Amital said.