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Shorts: Mideast

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Kadima wants new vote quickly

The Kadima Party is pushing to shorten the time until new elections are held in Israel.

Knesset party faction leaders met Oct. 28 with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and asked the speaker to forgo the three-week period before the 90-day countdown to elections. The three weeks would give other parties a chance to propose a new prime minister-designate to form a new coalition government.

If the three-week period is in force, then new elections could be scheduled for Feb. 10, 111 days after President Shimon Peres informed Itzik on Oct. 27 that Kadima Party head Tzipi Livni had been unable to form a new government. The opposition Likud Party supports the 111-day time period to elections. The Knesset will begin its election break Nov. 11.

Livni, the prime minister-designate, asked Peres on Oct. 26 to declare new general elections, saying she could not assemble a coalition. Livni, the foreign minister, won the Kadima primary in September following Ehud Olmert's resignation. Until the new elections take place, Olmert will stay on as caretaker prime minister.

New polls reported Oct. 27 show Livni and Kadima ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party. — jta

Police: Olmert indictment near

An indictment in a fraud case could be filed against Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert within days, according to police sources.

Ha'aretz reported Oct. 27 that police sources made their claim based on depositions taken in the United States over the last few days in a double-billing case in which Olmert is accused of billing several nonprofit organizations for the same flights and using the money for family vacations. The investigators were set to Israel at the end of the week.

The police sources told Ha'aretz that the new evidence confirms earlier evidence on which the police recommended an indictment. An official indictment could force Olmert out of office before new elections are held. — jta

Official: Iran will strike at Israel

Iran will target Israel if there is a U.S. attack on the Islamic state's nuclear facilities, a senior Iranian official said.

Dr. Seyed Safavi, an adviser to supreme leader Ali Khamenei who disclosed the policy to foreign diplomats in London two weeks ago, also said that Tehran officials are proposing a pre-emptive strike on Israel that would incorporate actions by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Safavi told the diplomats the proposal was in response to threats made by Israeli officials, notably Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz said Israel would be forced to strike Iran's nuclear reactor if the country's uranium enrichment program is not curbed.

The proposed pre-emptive strike on Israel has not yet become official policy. As part of a campaign to persuade Iran to cease objectionable nuclear activity, the United Nations Security Council passed a dual-track resolution last month providing incentives to Iran to stop its uranium enrichment and enacting sanctions if the Islamic Republic refuses. — jta

Palestinian kills Israeli in Jerusalem

An Israeli civilian was killed and a policeman wounded after a young Palestinian was stopped for a security check in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian pulled out a knife and stabbed one of two police officers who detained him on the street in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood

Oct. 23. The assailant escaped the policemen, though he was shot and injured as he fled the scene, and then stabbed a 60-year-old Israeli civilian before being tackled and held by another civilian.

The civilian died of his wounds on the scene. The policeman and the Palestinian were being treated at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. — jta

Outpost evacuated, settlers rampage

Some Jewish residents of the West Bank went on a rampage after an illegal outpost near Hebron was evacuated.

The outpost known as Federman's Farm, inhabited for the past two years by right-wing activist Noam Federman, his wife and their nine children living in a caravan, was evacuated Oct. 25 by the Israeli army and border police. Following the evacuation, settlers allegedly slashed the tires of Palestinian cars in Hebron and smashed the windows of several homes. Arab graves were painted with anti-Arab and anti-Muslim epithets.

Right-wing activists in interviews on Israel Radio and Army Radio called for revenge on the evacuators.

"Whoever speaks out against IDF soldiers belongs in jail and in judicial proceedings," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during a Cabinet meeting Oct. 25. "We will show no tolerance toward such expressions and actions."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Cabinet that Jewish right-wing extremists get off too lightly.

"I stress the seriousness of the statements and activity of the extreme right in the territories," Barak said. "I believe the punishments are too soft and that the legal systems should focus on this." Danny Dayan, the head of the settlers' Yesha Council, condemned the threats. — jta

Palestinian cops go after Hamas

More than 550 additional Palestinian policemen were deployed in Hebron for an operation against Hamas.

Those deployed Oct. 24 will join the 2,400 Palestinian policemen already in the Hebron area, according to an Israeli army spokesman. The force, trained in Jordan by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, is in the West Bank city on a temporary basis, the spokesman said.

"Their role is to curtail Hamas and take aim at the weapons of the resistance, not to enforce the law or protect citizens," Hebron Police Chief Samih al-Saifi told Agence France-Presse.

The deployment was authorized during an Oct. 22 meeting between the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian Security Service. The move is said to be an attempt to strengthen Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian forces in recent months have arrested dozens of Hamas members, confiscated weapons and explosives, and closed down several of the Islamist group's charities, the French press agency reported.

A Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip condemned the deployment, saying it "served the Zionist enemy." Approximately 1,000 Jews live among more than 150,000 Palestinians in Hebron. — jta

Hezbollah chief: I wasn't poisoned

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah denied a report that he was poisoned by Israel.

The state-affiliated Iraqi Web site Almalaf reported Oct. 22 that Hassan Nasrallah was poisoned and Iranian doctors rushed to Lebanon on Oct. 26 to save him. Israel was responsible for the assassination attempt, the site said, citing its sources.

The report said Nasrallah continued to feel ill after being in critical condition for several days. Nasrallah denied the report Oct. 25, calling it "psychological warfare" against his group. "This information is totally unfounded," the Hezbollah head said in a television interview. "I am sitting here in front of you ... There was no poisoning. It is pure fabrication." — jta


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