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The Media Line Sunday News Roundup

1. SHARON TO BEGIN CABINET DEBATE OF FULL PULLOUT PLAN … Following several days marked by open bickering between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the man seen as the most likely successor to Sharon, the barely-revised plan for a unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip will be presented to the cabinet today, but will not be voted on until next week. Sharon has said that there will be no vote until he has enough votes for passage. Sharon tried – so far in vain – to wring support from his Likud party colleagues by making semantic changes and breaking implementation up into pieces. Over the weekend, Sharon tried to pin the impasse on Netanyahu, claiming that the former prime minister was using the issue to further his desire to return to power. Netanyahu’s aides countered by reminding Sharon that he, too, agreed to be bound by the results of the party referendum that rejected the plan, regardless of what the prime minister is calling it now. It is now rumored that Sharon is considering firing two right-wing ministers from the National Religious and National Union parties and replacing them with loyalists, thus insuring that he succeeds in winning the vote.

2. ISRAELI OFFICER KILLED DURING SEARCH MISSION; STUDENT STABBED IN OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM… An Israeli army captain was killed on Saturday during a search for terrorists and weapons in the Balata refugee camp near the city of Nablus. The patrol of paratroopers he was commanding came under Palestinian gunfire while searching a house. Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers discovered the body of a Palestinian outside of a kibbutz near the Erez crossing point between pre-1967 Israel and the Gaza Strip. On Friday night, the man was seen approaching the fence surrounding Kibbutz Erez and troops opened fire. Two explosive devices were found alongside the body. Also on Saturday, a 24-year old man was stabbed in the neck and back by a Palestinian while walking to the Western Wall for Sabbath prayers. The victim received light wounds and was taken to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment. Police report that they have a suspect in custody.

3. HAMAS LEADER DEAD IN TARGETED KILLING… Three members of the Hamas terrorist organization were killed on Saturday when an Israeli Air Force helicopter fired two missiles at a motorcycle traveling in the A-Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. One of the cyclists was Hamas commander Wail Na’ssar, the other a comrade. The third man killed, who was standing nearby, was also identified by Israeli sources as a member of Hamas. Israeli security sources said the men were responsible for the May 11th ambush that killed six Israeli soldiers. Palestinian sources said that seven civilians were also injured in the attack.

4. FAKE PALESTINIAN AMBULANCES SEIZED NEAR JERUSALEM… Acting on an intelligence tip, Israeli police intercepted two fake Palestinian ambulances, of the kind Israel has accused the Palestinians of using for smuggling wanted terrorists and arms. An Israeli Arab was arrested as an accomplice. Israel has been at odds with the United Nations UNRWA agency over its accusations that Palestinians have been seen using their ambulances to transport terrorists. Israel also charged that following an ambush on May 11th in which six soldiers were blown up in an armored personnel carrier, Palestinians used ambulances to remove the body parts of the dead soldiers.

5. HEAD OF ISRAELI NORTHERN COMMAND WARNS SYRIA OF ESCALATION… The commander of Israel’s Northern Command said in an interview marking four years since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon that he’s “not certain that the fighting in southern Lebanon is behind us.” Maj. Gen. Benny Glantz told Channel 2 television that, “If further escalation in the battle with Hizbullah takes place, Syria will have to pay a heavy price.” Glantz said that Hizbullah has long-range weapons capable of reaching inside of Israel. He said that Syria is providing arms directly to terrorist organizations.

6. DAHLAN SAYS ATTACKS FROM GAZA WILL END IF ISRAEL WITHDRAWS COMPLETELY… Muhammad Dahlan, who was the head of the Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip under the first prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, said on Saturday that attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians would end if Israel withdrew completely from there. Dahlan is widely believed to be the one who will head up the Gaza security forces if Israel does withdraw. He said that he has an agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization to that effect, but Hamas denied Dahlan’s statement. It appears that Egypt will play a role in post-pullout security, including the training of troops that will be deployed in Gaza.

7. ISRAELI REPORT DETAILS RECRUITMENT OF TEENS AS SUICIDE BOMBERS… A report by Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service that was released per a request by The New York Times, details the use of Palestinian teens to recruit other youth to become suicide bombers. According to the newspaper, “opposition to the practice [of using teens as terrorists] is widespread among ordinary Palestinians, but it is not clear that the practice has stopped.” The report went into detail about one 15-year old, Na’sir Awartani, who “introduced at least four other youths to Al-Aq’sa leaders for talks about suicide bombings.”

8. INTEL MAG: WMD’S WENT TO SYRIA… The intelligence magazine GeoStrategy-Direct is reporting that U.S. intelligence experts have new evidence that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – systems, components and platforms – were transferred to Syria prior to the March 2003 Iraqi war. According to the magazine, convoys were spotted by satellites in March 2003, but confirmation of the contents of the convoys came only after Iraqi scientists and technicians were questioned by American intelligence officers. More recently, the WMD convoy was tracked to Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley where, “Electronic monitoring and human intelligence” has indicated that Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons “are being protected by Syria, with Iranian help.” The Washington Times reported that American officials are investigating reports that Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad is “playing a major role in fomenting the terrorist insurgency in Iraq.” The paper reported that arms stolen in Iraq are sent to Syria, which then returns them to Iraq and into the hands of insurgents.

9. RABIN ASSASSIN DENIED RIGHT TO MARRY… The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Sunday that Yigal Amir, the man convicted of killing former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, may not marry nor have conjugal visits with his fiancé. Amir had asked permission from the prison service to wed and sued when the request was denied. As a security prisoner, Amir has no right to conjugal visits. Accordingly, because there would be no way to consummate the marriage, the chief rabbi of the prisons service ruled that the marriage would not be appropriate. Amir’s lawyer said he would appeal the decision.