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March 13, 2008

Tags: News in Brief
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Shooting sparks closure

Israel shut down the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after last week’s terror attack on the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. The closure was launched at 1 a.m. last Friday, just hours after a killer walked into the cafeteria of the yeshiva in west Jerusalem and opened fire, killing eight students before being killed in retaliatory fire. Police also limited access to Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques in Jerusalem’s Old City to women and men 45 or older and bearing identity cards from inside Israel. Thousands of police were deployed throughout Jerusalem.

Arabs may repeal offer

The Arab League is considering a review of its 2002 plan for comprehensive peace with Israel. Arab League foreign ministers meeting last week in Cairo deplored Israel’s recent offensive in the Gaza Strip and said regional peace prospects were in doubt. “For the Arab side to continue to offer the Arab peace initiative, it will be linked with Israel’s implementation of its basic international commitments,” the ministers said in a statement. Under the 2002 offer, Israel would be recognized by the Arab world in exchange for giving up land captured in the 1967 Six Day War and agreeing to a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Israel has welcomed the initiative but balked at placing preconditions on peace talks. The Arab League stopped short of saying it would withdraw the offer, or of calling on the Palestinian Authority to curtail U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Israel.

New sanctions on Iran

Israel welcomed the new round of sanctions against Iran last Monday, voicing hope that it would succeed in getting Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment efforts. The UN Security Council stepped up sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. By a vote of 14 in favour and one abstention, the Security Council decided March 3 to impose a third round of sanctions against Tehran, including financial blacklisting and an expanded ban on selling technologies to Iran that could be used for military projects. “The third Security Council resolution is another key step manifesting the understanding that the international community must not give up and stand idly by as Iran tries to become a nuclear-armed power,” Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in a statement. Iran defied the two previous sanctions resolutions, in 2006 and 2007, though independent analysts said its economy was hit hard by the measures.

Carter, Annan offer to help

Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan have offered to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The former U.S. president and former UN secretary general recently proposed to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that they act as go-betweens in truce talks between the Jewish state and the ruling Palestinian Islamist faction, Army Radio reported. Should they come, Carter and Annan would require Israeli permission to enter Gaza, which has been under embargo since Hamas took power in 2006. According to Israel’s Army Radio, Jerusalem opposes the initiative but has yet to make a final decision.

3 held in bomb plot

Philippine authorities said they foiled an alleged plot to bomb the Israeli and U.S. embassies in the country. Three Middle Eastern suspects were arrested under counter-terrorism regulations, Manila officials said. Associated Press quoted local sources as saying there was intelligence indicating the suspects planned to attack the Israeli and U.S. embassies, as well as possibly the British and Australian missions. The Philippines has an active  Al Qaeda wing, Jemaah Islamiyah.

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