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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. NORTHERN ISRAELI TOWNS HIT BY ROCKET FIRE FROM LEBANON… At least four Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon landed in Israeli towns located in the northern Galilee region on Tuesday. One scored a direct hit on a Kiryat Shmona home causing considerable damage but no injuries. Two other rockets also landed in Kiryat Shmona, one causing a power outage, and a fourth in Shlomi, in the western Galilee. The Israeli air force responded early Wednesday morning with a bombing run aimed at a terrorist training base outside of Beirut. It belongs to the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command which denied it was responsible for the Katyusha attack.

2. U.S. SLAPS SANCTIONS ON FIRMS SELLING ARMS TO IRAN… Six Chinese, two Indian and one Austrian firm have been hit with American sanctions for their dealings with Iran. The transactions relate to Iranian missiles or chemical weapon production. The nine companies are accused of violating the 2000 Iran Nonproliferation Act by transferring “equipment and technology listed on multilateral export control lists to Iran,” according to a State Department spokesman. Sanctions include a prohibition against doing business with the American government and a ban on receiving export licenses needed to buy certain technology from U.S. companies. The specific materials sold to Iran were not made public.

3. ISLAMIC JIHAD SAYS NO TO ‘ABBAS PLEA… The Islamic Jihad movement has rejected a plea by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas to halt its firing of Qassam rockets at Israeli targets. In spite of Israeli efforts to curb the attacks, rockets were launched into Israel on Tuesday, prompting Israel to respond with air strikes at eight locations it says are used as launch sites. No damage or injuries were reported from Tuesday’s barrage. ‘Abbas has been lobbying armed Palestinian groups to adhere to a “calm” agreed to last February. But response so far has been negative, even though the chief Palestinian negotiator called a cease-fire “a matter of high national interest.” Israel is trying to implement a ‘no-go’ zone in the northern Gaza Strip that will be enforced by artillery shelling and aerial bombardment. On Tuesday, Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over northern Gaza exhorting residents that “presence in areas used for projectile rocket launching puts your life in danger.”

4. ISRAELI SPY CHIEF SAYS IRAN WILL HAVE THE BOMB IN TWO YEARS… The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that Iran will have full nuclear capability by 2006 and will have “full operational nuclear capability” within one to two years. Meir Dagan is the second senior Israeli intelligence figure in a week to refer to Iran’s “determination” to build a nuclear bomb. Dagan also reported that Al-Qa’ida veterans of fighting in Iraq are operating near Israel’s borders and are seeking to undermine the stability of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments.

5. ISRAEL’S LABOR PARTY TO PUSH ‘HONG-KONG PLAN’ FOR POST-1967 BLOCS… Israel’s Labor Party will campaign for a Hong Kong model to be the basis for a settlement with the Palestinians on the issue of blocs of Jewish communities in post-1967 areas. The plan foresees long-term leasing from the Palestinians the land upon which the major “settlement blocs” are located in return for cash or territorial compensation. In 1898, Great Britain leased Hong Kong from China for 99 years and then restored it to China in 1997. The Labor platform will also declare Jerusalem to be the “indivisible capital of the state of Israel” but will leave open the issue of altering municipal boundaries as a way of dealing with Arab neighborhoods.