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The Media Line Daily News Focus

Reported from Jerusalem

1. ISRAEL UNDER HIGH ALERT FOR NEW YEAR; POSSIBILITY OF NON-CONVENTIONAL ATTACK CITED… Thousands of Israeli security forces will blanket the nation’s streets on the New Year following more than fifty concrete intelligence warnings of impending terror attacks. Some of those reports suggest the potential for non-conventional weapons to be used against Israel’s civilian population. In recent days there has been much talk of a planned “mega-attack” that might be launched from air or sea. On Tuesday, a bomb hidden in a milk carton was discovered on a main highway and safely disarmed by sappers.

2. ISRAEL FAILS IN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT; HAMAS VOWS REVENGE… An Israeli helicopter gunship fired two missiles at a vehicle carrying wanted Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but failed to kill its targets. Jamal and Rami Al-Jarah, the intended objects of the raid, escaped from the car with light to moderate injuries. Nine bystanders were also reported injured. Hamas mentor Sheikh Ahmad Yasin immediately vowed revenge. The attack came only days after Israeli army Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon said that because Hamas had apparently halted terror attacks inside of Israel, Israel would halt its targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders. In another development, Israeli forces returned to the Palestinian city of Nablus, from where troops had been withdrawn after a weeklong operation aimed at rooting out terrorists and arms. Explaining the reason for the raid, an army spokesman said that the terrorist infrastructure continued to operate in Nablus. The new action took place in the Old City of Nablus, where the Israeli troops met resistance from armed Palestinians. There were no casualties reported.

3. ARMY ULTIMATUM TO OUTPOST RESIDENTS: COOPERATE OR PAY… The order to evacuate four illegal outposts in post-1967 territory that was issued by the head of the Israel army’s Central Command gives residents of the targeted communities an ultimatum: cooperate or foot the bill for the operation. Those costs can include the army and police personnel necessary to carry out the dismantlement of the outpost and the equipment used. Residents are presently in the middle of a three-day period in which they can file an administrative appeal. That will be followed by another three-day period in which an appeal to the High Court of Justice can be made. Assuming neither will be upheld, evacuations will begin immediately afterward. Evacuation notices are being posted, and committees of residents are making plans for mass protests. The area council representing the communities intends to bus 10,000 people to the scene of the first evacuation. The Palestinian Authority has dismissed the evacuations as a “public relations stunt.”

4. ISRAELI SUB-CABINET ELITE TO DEAL WITH REGIONAL NUKE ISSUES… Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is convening his elite sub-cabinet to discuss issues of nuclear proliferation in the region. The government has recently made comments indicating it has contingency plans to destroy the nuclear reactor under construction in Iran before it becomes operational. In addition, Libyan dictator Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi’s recent commitment to end his country’s programs of weapons of mass destruction has brought new international pressure on Israel, primarily from Arab nations demanding that Israel be forced to give up its nuclear arsenal. Although never officially acknowledged, Israel is presumed to be the only Middle Eastern nation with operational nuclear weapons. The prime minister is expected to lay out ministerial responsibilities for various aspects of dealing with government policy.

5. ISRAELI MILITARY COURT REMANDS CANADIAN-PALESTINIAN SUSPECT CREATING UNUSUAL JURISDICTIONAL PRECEDENT… An Israeli military judge has upheld Israel’s jurisdiction over the defendant and has ordered a Palestinian-born Canadian citizen held until the end of proceedings. Jamal ‘Aqal is accused of receiving terrorist training in order to carry out attacks against Jews in North America. His attorneys argued that Israel lacked jurisdiction to try the case because the crime was planned outside of the post-1967 territories and aimed at the United States and Canada. Israel’s position is that ‘Aqal’s terrorist training endangered the lives of the residents of Gaza, where he lives.

6. ISRAEL AT WAR WITH MICROSOFT?… Israel’s Finance Ministry says Microsoft products are too expensive and is doing something about it. In addition to suspending the purchase of any new Microsoft software, the government is encouraging development of lower cost alternatives. In one such effort, the ministry is cooperating with Sun Microsystems and IBM in adapting their OpenOffice system to Hebrew. The move comes as a number of other countries have converted their entire governmental systems away from Microsoft.