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[Reported from Jerusalem]

1. ISRAELI COUPLE WOUNDED IN SHOOTING; ARMY PURSUES SHOOTERS… Drs. Valerie and Nelly Weisbrot, physicians at Israel’s HaEmek Hospital in the northern community of Afula, were shot on Wednesday while driving near their home community of Kadim, which is in the area of the Palestinian city of Jenin in post-1967 territory. The Israeli army tracked the gunman to a house on the outskirts of Jenin, where tanks fired on the home. Yassir Arafat’s Al-Aq’sa Martyrs Brigades took credit for the attack. Valerie Weisbrot underwent emergency surgery to repair a bullet wound to his kidney. His wife’s injuries were light. In another incident, two Palestinians were killed after they planted an explosive device near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, which borders on the Gaza Strip. The two were shot when they entered an off-limits area that has been used for attacks on Israeli troops and as a staging area for infiltrations into Israeli communities.

2. U.S. INTEL: SYRIA HOLDING SADDAM’S WMDs… American intelligence officials on Wednesday released an assessment indicating that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are being held by Syria. It claimed that the transfers were made prior to the onset of the Iraqi war. According to Middle East Newsline, the assessment is based on satellite photos of convoys of Iraqi trucks entering Syria in February and March. The American officials contend that their cargo was missiles and components of weapons of mass destruction.

3. PRIME MINISTER SHARON IN PUBLIC SPAT WITH ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF… Aides to army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon have accused Prime Minister Sharon of publicly criticizing their boss in order to deflect attention away from Sharon’s personal scandals. This, according to Army Radio. The Prime Minister rebuked Ya’alon for publicly criticizing government policy toward the Palestinians, saying it contributed to Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s failure as Palestinian prime minister. The Prime Minister’s office responded by saying that during ‘Abbas’s term, Ya’alon advocated the hard line that he is now criticizing. Media are also reporting a rift between the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff over policy toward the Palestinians. The army wants a clearly visible difference between its presence vis-à-vis “terror-filled and terror-free” areas. Accordingly, it wants Israeli forces removed from certain areas and certain restrictions on the Palestinian population lifted. Mofaz’s announcement yesterday of the easing of specific restrictions is being widely credited to pressure by army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon. Among measures announced are permission for 3,000 Palestinian merchants to enter Israel; 1,000 workers to return to their jobs in the Atarot (north of Jerusalem) industrial zone; and resumption of intercity public transportation.

4. U.S. CRITICIZES HIZBULLAH MINISERIES AS ANTI-SEMITIC… Al-Manar, a Lebanon-based television network belonging to the Hizbullah terrorist organization, said in a statement that its miniseries, Al-Shatat (“The Diaspora”) depicts “the stages of the Zionist movement … how it was able to affect the decision-making centers in Europe and establish the Zionist entity in Palestine by criminal and dirty means.” The U.S. State Department says it presents the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as fact. The “Protocols,” although discredited for generations, have been re-circulated since the time of Czar Nicholas II when they was created in order to blame the nation’s woes on the Jews. While State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States is expressing its concerns to governments in the region – including Syria which controls Lebanon – a spokesman for Al-Manar said that, “The American criticism unveils more of the level of connection between the American administration and Zionist decisions.”

5. ISRAEL LOOKING INTO POSSIBLE IRANIAN OVERTURE… Israeli officials are trying to assess the credibility of a message received through a third-party that allegedly seeks to open a channel of communication between Tehran and Jerusalem. According to Haaretz newspaper, Ariel Sharon is skeptical about Iranian intentions, seeing no change in its hostility toward Israel. On Tuesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terror and cautioned that its conciliatory statements on its nuclear intentions should be viewed with skepticism.

6. ISRAEL’S SECURITY FENCE CALLED “BOTTOMLESS PIT” IN KNESSET COMMITTEE… Shalom Simhon, a member of the opposition Labor Party and chairman of the Knesset (Parliament) Economics Committee, called Israel’s controversial security buffer a “bottomless pit” during a committee debate on the cost of the buffer on Wednesday. A special hearing had been called following reports that the Finance Ministry planned a special tax to cover its cost. While the original estimate of the cost was $1.7 billion, the final cost, including the east and west fences, the terminals, and maintenance would amount to $3.33 billion, or $2.2 million per kilometer.