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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. TWO QASSAM ROCKETS LAND ON ISRAELI TOWN ONE DAY AFTER LETHAL SALVO… One day after Israel suffered its first fatalities from Palestinian-made Qassam rockets, two more missiles fell in the town of Sderot. Sderot has been the most frequent target of the Qassams since the outbreak of violence in September 2000, but until yesterday sustained only occasional property damage. On Monday, a man and a young child were killed when two rockets landed in the center of town and near a kindergarten. In Tuesday’s attack, a man reportedly received moderate injuries. Sderot is located in the northern portion of the Negev desert, which comprises Israel’s southern half. Some media reports suggest that some of the rockets that fall on Sderot are launched in hope of hitting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s home, which is nearby.

2. ISRAEL TARGETS HIGH-RISE MEDIA CENTER AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS IN GAZA… Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a 16-story building housing a media center associated with the Hamas terrorist organization late Monday night. The building also housed the Arabic language satellite television station Al-Jazeera and other news organizations, including the BBC. The raid came in retaliation for a Qassam rocket attack that killed a 49-year old man and 4-year old boy in the Israeli town of Sderot on Monday; and for an attack on an Israeli army post in which one soldier was killed and several injured by explosives planted in a tunnel beneath it. According to Israeli sources, the target was used to communicate with terrorists in the field and to release statements to the media, usually claiming credit for attacks against Israelis. A short time later, helicopters launched missiles at what Israel said was a metal factory in the A-Nu’sayrat refugee camp in central Gaza that was used to build Qassam rockets. In a third raid, Israeli forces blew up two empty eight-story buildings in the Khan Younis refugee camp. The army said the buildings were linked by a ventilation shaft connected to a tunnel filled with explosives.

3. MAJOR ISRAELI MILITARY OPERATION EXPECTED… It is widely believed that Israel will launch a major ground operation in the Gaza Strip shortly that will be aimed at destroying the ability of Palestinian terrorist organizations from building and firing rockets and missiles into Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz held a strategy session on Monday following the lethal rocket attack in the Israeli town of Sderot that left a man and a 4-year old boy dead. More than 300 Qassam rockets have fallen on Israeli targets since the outbreak of violence in September 2000. Justice Minister Tommy Lapid, apparently expressing the sentiment of many government leaders, said, “Even the most radical peace-seekers must agree that what happened today cannot turn into a routine, and an appropriate response is necessary.”

4. HIGH COURT TO DETERMINE WHETHER SHARON BRIBERY CASE REMAINS CLOSED… Israel’s High Court of Justice will hear three petitions on Tuesday, each of which asks that the Attorney General’s decision to close the bribery investigation of Ariel Sharon be overturned. The cases will be heard by a seven-judge panel. Attorney General Menahem Mazuz’s decision set off shockwaves in the legal establishment when he issued a scathing attack on former State Attorney Edna Arbel, who had recommended that the case go to trial. State prosecutors feel that they have been maligned by the new attorney general. The petitions charge that Mazuz’s decision was in the nature of a defense brief, in effect defending the defendants. Regarding allegations that the bribe (allegedly paid by a real estate developer for then-Foreign Minister Sharon’s help with the Greek government) was in the form of outlandish consulting fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Sharon’s son who had no expertise or experience, key participants in the project have submitted affidavits swearing that Sharon’s son was never present at meetings and received far greater compensation than the professionals on the job.

5. IRANIAN LAWMAKER: ISRAEL’S THREAT AGAINST NUKES IS A BLUFF… A member of the Iranian National Security and Foreign Policy Commission told an Iranian news agency that Israel’s threats to take action against the Iranian nuclear reactor that is under construction were made to create pressure on Iran and get concessions on the eve of the June meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors. Majlis Hassan Qashqawi said that recent statements by Israeli officials are “political show-off” but that Iran should be prepared militarily.