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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. PALESTINIANS DISCOVER GAZA SMUGGLING TUNNEL SAID TO BE READIED FOR ATTACK ON JEWISH COMMUNITY… The Palestinian Authority said on Monday that its security forces had located a tunnel that was apparently going to be used to launch a terror attack on the Gush Katif enclave of Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip. The tunnel, measuring 10 meters deep and 50 meters long, spanned from Khan Younis to Gush Katif. It is believed that large quantities of explosives were going to be detonated beneath the Israeli community. There are reports that a gun battle broke out between the Palestinian forces that discovered the tunnel and those who dug it. There are also reports that Israeli intelligence and Palestinian security forces cooperated in the incident.

2. PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PUTS EXECUTIONS ON HOLD… The Palestinian Authority is putting a hold on carrying out death sentences in more than twenty cases. Of 51 prisoners on the P.A.’s death row, about half of them were convicted of collaborating with Israel. Sufyan Abu Zeida, the Palestinian minister in charge of prison affairs, said on Monday that the planned executions were put on hold for the time being because the fate of the condemned men had been raised by Israeli negotiators. Abu Zeida said the P.A. wants to avoid inflaming the situation at this time. He also denied published reports that P.A. Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas, who must sign-off on executions, will commute the death sentences. A possible commutation was also denied on Monday by Muhammad Dahlan, the P.A.’s security chief, who called for strong action against what he called “collaborators.”

3. SHARON REVERSES ‘NO BLOOD’ POLICY FOR PRISONER RELEASE… Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has reversed a long-standing policy against releasing Palestinian prisoners said to have “blood on their hands” – an expression meaning that the prisoner had participated in a violent attack against Israelis. Although the policy has previously been broken in specific cases, it had remained a baseline for consideration of the release of any security prisoner. Sharon on Monday ordered his justice minister to prepare to release prisoners “with blood on their hands” who were jailed prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords “and are elderly and in poor health.” The policy reversal is seen as a gesture to build popular support for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas, who has frequently raised the issue of “veteran prisoners.” Media Line analysts explain that the apparent logic of the move is that the release of the old-timers will provide an infusion of pro-‘Abbas support into the post-1967 territories where ‘Abbas is fighting against the Hamas terrorist organization for popular support.

4. INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE CASE RESONATES; BANK GOVERNOR WARNS OF EFFECT ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT… While investigators try to identify possible additional victims of Israel’s gravest industrial espionage case, the new governor of the Bank of Israel has warned that the scandal could harm foreign investment. Stanley Fischer told reporters on Monday that “a country’s industrial atmosphere influences investment.” He warned that, “If things emerge from the investigation that I hope do not emerge, then people will think about where to invest their money.” Eighteen people are already under arrest, including senior executives of some of Israel’s leading corporations. Three private investigation firms are alleged to have commissioned a computer bug known as a “Trojan Horse” that was used to spy on their clients’ competitors. The virus gave its operators total control of the corporate computers, causing great financial loss.