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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. ISRAELI OFFICER DIES IN COLLAPSE OF ARMS SMUGGLING TUNNEL… An Israeli army captain died on Monday when an arms smuggling tunnel dug in the Philadelphi Strip collapsed while he was marking its route in preparation for destroying it. A second officer survived the collapse with light injuries. Israel has been searching for tunnels dug in this narrow area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt that are used to smuggle weapons and terrorists into Palestinian territory. Capt. Moshe Taranto was working to expose a tunnel that had been dug from the Egyptian side toward an Israeli military position. It was believed that terrorists planned to fill the tunnel with explosives and detonate it beneath that position. Taranto was at a depth of 23 feet when the tunnel collapsed.

2. PALESTINIANS SENTENCE FATHER, SON TO DEATH FOR COLLABORATING WITH ISRAEL… A Palestinian tribunal has sentenced a man and his son to death for collaborating with Israel. 50-year-old Muhammad Abu Keimas and his 20-year-old son Rami are accused of passing information to Israel that led to an attempt on the life of Hamas chief ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz A-Rantisi in June of 2003. A-Rantisi survived, but was killed by Israeli forces in April of this year. The two men can receive a pardon from the acting Palestinian Authority chairman. Two other Palestinians were sentenced to terms of ten years each for collaborating with Israel.

3. SHARON POISED FOR GOVERNMENT SHAKE-UP, NEW COALITION… Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appears determined to fire ministers from his largest coalition partner if they vote against his 2005 budget on Wednesday. Plans are underway to replace Shinui with Labor, the largest opposition party. Sharon infuriated fervently secular Shinui by promising the religious UTJ party $66.5 million in return for its support in Wednesday’s budget vote. Sharon is negotiating a second deal as well: to purchase the National Religious Party’s votes for $29.7 million. NRP recently quit the coalition over Sharon’s planned Gaza pullout, leaving Sharon with a minority government. Sharon’s Likud party had voted against allowing Labor into the government, but the prime minister is moving in that direction regardless. The frailty of the Sharon coalition was underscored on Monday when two no-confidence motions submitted by Labor passed in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Had the “yeas” numbered a majority of 61 rather than the pluralities received, the government would have fallen.

4. P.A., DONOR NATIONS REJECT ISRAELI SOLUTION TO CLOSURES IN PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES… An Israeli request for funding to build a network of roads as a solution to internal closure placed on Palestinians in post-1967 territories has been nixed by the Palestinian Authority. Israeli planners believed that creating a series of tunnels, bridges, upgrades of secondary roads and the paving of new roads – a project covering 311 miles (500 km) at a cost of $200 million – would facilitate the internal passage of Palestinians. But the P.A. told the donor nations that it would just further strengthen Israeli communities in those areas, effectively killing the Israeli proposal because the donor nations are committed only to projects submitted and approved by the Palestinian Authority.

5. ISRAEL PROTESTS TO FRENCH OVER ARAFAT DEATH CERTIFICATE… Israel is demanding that the French government explain why Jerusalem is listed on Yassir Arafat’s death certificate as his place of birth. Israeli Ambassador Nissim Zvili told French authorities that his nation expects the inaccuracy to be corrected and the cause of the misinformation to be explained. Arafat was born in Cairo, but throughout his life tried to portray himself as a “Palestinian born in Jerusalem.” An Israeli spokesman in Paris quoted a French official as saying the erroneous listing came from widow Suha.