1. DOCTORS SAY SHARON STROKE ‘WAS NOT MILD’… Ariel Sharon’s doctors say the stroke the Israeli prime minister suffered last week was not “mild” at all. Sharon’s physicians held a news conference in Jerusalem on Monday, revealing the PM’s medical condition. According to the doctors, when Sharon was brought to the hospital he was unable to speak clearly and “incapable of making decisions.” Nevertheless, authority to govern was at no time transferred to his second-in-command, Ehud Olmert. Sharon will undergo a cardiac catheterization procedure sometime during the next three weeks to close what was described as a “tiny hole” in his heart that was discovered during treatment for the stroke. Doctors termed it a “birth defect.”
2. ISRAEL HITS GAZA OFFICES OF AL-AQ’SA MARTYRS BRIGADES… Israeli helicopters fired two missiles at the Gaza City offices of the Al-Aq’sa Martyrs Brigades early Tuesday morning and war planes bombed large craters into Gaza roadways. The action was seen as a response to Monday’s Qassam rocket attack that narrowly missed an Israeli kindergarten in a kibbutz where a Hanukkah party was being held. A second rocket fell south of the coastal city of Ashqelon. The Al-Aq’sa group is associated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s Fatah faction. The Israeli army is beginning to enforce a “no-go” zone in the northern Gaza Strip by warning residents within the area to stay inside their homes or risk danger. It will be enforced by artillery fire and air power, but no ground operation is expected.
3. U.S. AGENCY PICKS HAIFA PORT FOR ‘MEGAPORT’ ANTI-NUKE PROGRAM… The United States National Nuclear Security Administration has selected Israel’s port of Haifa to be part of its Megaport initiative – an effort to combat the possibility of unconventional weaponry being smuggled into the U.S. for the purposes of constructing a “dirty bomb”. As with other ports selected for the program, millions of dollars will be spent on installing advanced sensors at the port that are capable of identifying radioactive materials. According to the financial newspaper Globes, Haifa was selected because of its growth of a regional port, in particular a point through which goods are shipped to the United States from Jordan and Iraq. Israel will benefit from the program by being allowed to use the sensors to scan goods entering Israel as well. Other countries participating in Megaport include Singapore, China, Spain, Sri Lanka, Holland, and Greece.
4. EUROPEAN MONITORS AT GAZA CROSSING PREVENT PALESTINIAN FACTION LEADERS FROM LEAVING… Field commanders from the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were denied passage through the Rafah crossing point from the Gaza Strip to Egypt by European Union monitors on Monday. The three were said to be planning to join the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. A spokesman for the PRC threatened that unless permission for the three to pass was given by January 10, it would blast a hole in the concrete barriers that separate Gaza from Egypt and create its own crossing point. Palestinian security officials were quoted as drawing a distinction between the factions’ armed units whose leaders were denied passage and political leaders, whom they say were allowed to pass through Rafah.