Shorts: Mideast

Amnesty finds blame on both sides in Gaza

Amnesty International’s report on Israel’s three-week Gaza military operation detailed “evidence of war crimes” on both sides in the Gaza conflict and called for a United Nations arms embargo on Israel and the Palestinians.

The report said that Israeli forces used munitions from the United States. “As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty Inter-national’s director for the Middle East.

The report said that Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired at civilian areas in Israel with hundreds of rockets that had been smuggled in or made of components from abroad. While the report criticized Hamas for the Kassam and Grad rockets that were fired, it made clear that “these unsophisticated weapons cannot be aimed accurately and stand no comparison with the weaponry deployed by Israel.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to the report by saying that it “presents a biased version of the events,” that it ignores the fact that Hamas is a recognized terror organization and that it does not mention Hamas’ deliberate use of civilians as human shields. — jta

Hamas official sends letter to Obama

According to media reports, a letter for President Barack Obama, written by Hamas foreign policy adviser Ahmed Yousef, was passed to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) when Kerry visited the Gaza Strip last week.

Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly gave the document (without reading it) to the American consulate in Jerusalem so it could be sent to the White House. The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization and has no official contact with the group. — jta

Hillary Clinton to visit Holy Land

Israeli officials said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in Israel on Monday, March 2 for two days and will meet with the country’s top leaders, marking her first visit to the region as the top U.S. diplomat.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mah-moud Abbas, said that Clinton also will be visiting the Palestinian territories during her stay, but offered no further details. — ap

Israel increases oil exploration

Fifty-four percent of Israeli waters off the coast will soon be divided up among some 20 companies to search for natural gas and crude oil.

Following the success of the Tamar 1 find of a large quantity of natural gas off the coast of Haifa, Israel’s Crude Oil Council recommended further exploration in the hopes of finding more fossil fuels.

After several years in which less than 10 percent of Israel’s waters were being explored, the National Infrastructures Ministry has been steadily increasing licenses for exploratory expeditions. —

Archeologists find 2,700-year-old items

Royal seal impressions that date back to the reign of the biblical King Hezekiah, who reigned from approximately 715 to 687 B.C.E., were found in southern Jerusalem.

The collection was found in the village of Umm Tuba during a routine excavation before the start of planned construction in the Arab neighborhood.

Archeologists unearthed a large building on the site that dates to the time of the First and Second Temples. The royal seal impressions were discovered in the building.

Pits, agricultural installations and subterranean silos were discovered hewn inside the courtyard. In addition, a potter’s kiln, a large columbarium cave and pottery vessels were discovered inside the complex. — jta

Rabbi says visits to Nazi camps are taboo

A prominent Zionist rabbi says it is forbidden to visit Nazi death camps.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter, urged Israeli schools to cancel their annual trips to the camps, saying they are forbidden since there is a halachic ban on leaving Israel and because the camps now “provide livelihood to murderers.” Aviner made the statement in a religious journal in answer to a reader’s question.

In an interview with Ynetnews following the journal’s publication, he said, “I’m not busy holding a grudge against the Poles, but we shouldn’t provide livelihood to people who allowed death camps to be built on their land and who are now making a profit out of it.”

Leaving Israel is only permitted for the sake of a mitzvah, Aviner told Ynetnews in an interview published Feb. 24, adding that many great rabbis have never visited the death camps in Poland. — jta