1. POST-PULLOUT VIOLENCE FLARES… One day after Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four communities in the West Bank, violence flared in Jerusalem and in Tul Karem. A British national studying at an Israeli religious school was stabbed to death by a knife-wielding Arab man near the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem Wednesday night. A classmate from the United States with whom he was walking was injured. 21-year-old Shmuel Mat was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died on the operating table. The students had left the Western Wall a short time before and were returning to their seminary. Late Wednesday night, Israel soldiers raided the town of Tul Karem looking for terrorists belonging to the Islamic Jihad. Four Palestinian men died in a firefight that broke out when troops attempted to make an arrest. A fifth died of his wounds while being treated at an Israeli hospital. Israeli sources contend that two of the dead men were on the wanted list and all were involved in the gun battle. Palestinian sources deny the Israeli version, insisting that three of the dead were youths between 14 and 17 years of age and not associated with any terrorist organization. Islamic Jihad has threatened “painful revenge.”
2. ISRAEL’S TOP POLITICAL SCUTTLEBUTT: WILL SHARON LEAVE LIKUD TO FORM A NEW PARTY?… Israeli politics-watchers are consumed by the question of whether Ariel Sharon will bolt his Likud party and create a new one in order to run for reelection as prime minister. Speculation has been rife since polls emerged showing Sharon’s political nemesis Binyamin Netanyahu in a much stronger position among Likud executive committee members – those that have the upper-hand in selecting the party’s standard-bearer. Speculation intensified following reports that whether or not to do so was the main topic at this week’s session of the “ranch forum” – the group of influential Sharon intimates who meet regularly on his ranch to parse and advise.
3. ISRAELI PARTY LEADER SAYS HE HAS ENOUGH SUPPORT TO TOPPLE GOVERNMENT… The head of Israel’s National Religious Party claims he has enough support to topple the government and call for new elections. Zevulun Orlev says he knows of 64 members of Knesset, Israel’s parliament, who also want to move up elections. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has told Orlev that he would only authorize a special session to deal with the matter if he could come up with 61 signatures for a no-confidence motion or motion to dissolve the Knesset. [There are 120 seats in the Knesset-ed.] In a harsh attack on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Orlev said, “Sharon’s government has no right to exist. The continuation of his regime is improper and undeserved from a moral and democratic perspective, and therefore elections must be moved up.”
4. PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN ‘HURT’ BY SOLICITATION TO ‘PALESTINIAN BOMBER’… 54-year-old Sami Habas said he was “hurt” when a solicitation for a credit card came addressed to “Palestinian Bomber.” But the incident became even more painful when he called the credit card company to complain, and after giving the pertinent information to the operator was asked, “How can I help you, Mr. Bomber?” Habas, who has lived in the U.S. since he was three and who served in the U.S. Army, says he has no idea how his name was changed on the list purchased by JP Morgan Chase in the first place. For its part, while Chase stresses that none of its employees was involved, it promises to investigate. The incident was reported by the Associated Press.