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The Media Line Sunday News Roundup

1. SEVEN SENIOR HEADS OF TERROR FACTIONS KILLED BY ISRAELI TROOPS… Israeli troops killed the heads of the Nablus cells of Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Saturday. Five senior terrorist commanders were killed in the city’s kasbah section during an Israeli operation called, “Full Court Press.” In all, nine Palestinians – eight of whom were armed – died in the continuing operation. The bodies of the two primary targets of the operation were found among the dead after Israelis had surrounded a hide-out and fought a pitched battle for more than one hour. The wanted men were Naief Abu Sharakh, head of Yassir Arafat’s Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades in Nablus and Fadi Al-Buheiti, also known as “Sheikh Ibrahim,” who headed the Islamic Jihad’s Al Quds Brigades. Abu Sharakh, according to Israeli sources, had close ties to the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist organization, which is backed by Iran and Syria. A statement by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades read, “By God’s will, the retaliation of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades will be like an earthquake. It will be unprecedented.”

2. ANTI-FENCE PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT… Israeli police battled demonstrators protesting construction of the controversial security buffer on Saturday. The clash took place at the Al-Ram checkpoint outside of Jerusalem. Police used teargas when the protest turned violent. One Israeli demonstrator was arrested for throwing an axe at police. Others threw what were described as small metal hammers. During the melee, Ahmad Tibi, an Israeli Arab who is a member of Knesset (parliament), was treated at the scene for tear gas inhalation.

3. INTERNATIONAL COURT DECISION ON ISRAELI FENCE DUE; ISRAELI PRESIDENT: “WE’LL IGNORE IT”… The International Court of Justice at The Hague announced that it will release its decision on the legality of Israel’s security barrier on July 9th. Israel’s president has already said his nation will ignore it if it is critical of the project, as most believe it will be. President Moshe Katzav told Israel Radio that if the court orders a cessation of building of the buffer, “we will have to reject it. There is no justification for that decision. Most democratic countries would not suffer that kind of intervention from the court. It is a security fence, not a border. It has no political meaning. It is only for security purposes, it is intended to keep the Palestinians from killing us”. The case went to The Hague at the behest of the United Nations General Assembly. While Israel’s Foreign Ministry is already preparing a legal, diplomatic and media counter-offensive, Israel is concerned that the ruling will be acted upon by the Security Council. If that happens, ignoring it as Katzav said could have serious repercussions.

4. SHARON BRIBERY CASE DECISION WILL BE DECIDED BY SUPREME COURT ON TUESDAY… Attorney General Menahem Mazuz’s decision to close the bribery investigation against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be reviewed by the High Court of Justice on Tuesday. Three petitions will be heard by a panel of seven judges. If Sharon thought the case was closed after the announcement by Mazuz two weeks ago, it has not proved to be the case. In addition to the court action, the Attorney General released the full text of former State Attorney Edna Arbel’s decision to indict that he overruled. State prosecutors were incensed over what they viewed as a public rebuke by the A-G, and the public increasingly wants to know why the two opinions were so vastly different.

5. AMERICAN OFFICIAL MEETS WITH AHMAD QUREI’… Assistant U.S. Secretary of State William Burns met on Saturday with Ahmad Qurei’ to discuss the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip. Burns was supportive of the Egyptian plan for maintaining peace after the Israeli pullout, even though Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has had harsh words for it in recent days. Under the plan, Palestinian security forces would begin collecting weapons from terrorist organizations. But on Saturday, a senior official of Yassir Arafat’s Fatah faction denied that was so. Burns told the Palestinian prime minister that the success of the Egyptian plan “depends on Palestinian leadership making and implementing the [necessary] decisions.”

6. ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER SKEPTICAL OF EGYPTIAN PROMISES… Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told American envoy William Burns on Friday that he doesn’t believe that Egypt will succeed in overhauling the Palestinian security infrastructure in advance of the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip as promised. Two days prior, Mofaz met with ‘Umar Suleiman, the Egyptian head of intelligence, who is mediating between Israel and the Palestinians, which whom Israel refuses to speak directly. Regarding the Egyptian goals, Mofaz told Burns, “I have considerable doubt that they (the Palestinians) will really do everything that is required of them — true reform, the merging of the security branches, replacing security chiefs, dismantling the terror infrastructure.” According to Israel Radio, Mofaz also told Burns that Israel will not abandon the Phildelphi strip – the corridor running along the Gaza-Egypt border under which tunnels used to smuggle arms and terrorist into Palestinian areas – is proven to be secure under Egyptian supervision.

7. ISRAEL REJECTS ARAFAT CALL FOR OLYMPICS CEASE-FIRE… Yassir Arafat called for a cease-fire with Israel during the upcoming Olympics in Greece, but Israel doesn’t believe the gesture is sincere. The occasion was the lighting of an Olympic torch outside of his Ramallah compound. An Israeli spokesman told the Associated Press that Arafat’s words and deeds are very different, and reminded the media of the 1972 Munich Olympics at which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Arafat’s PLO. Both Burns and Qurei’ agreed that the Israeli pullout must be part of the Road Map peace plan.

8. U.S. HOUSE, SENATE, OVERWHELMINGLY APPROVE PRO-ISRAEL RESOLUTION… A resolution endorsing Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was overwhelmingly passed by both the House and Senate last week. The House vote was 407-9; the Senate vote 95-3. The bill also repeated language suggesting that Israel will retain some post-1967 territory in any final settlement and that Palestinian refugees should look to a new state rather than Israel for their future homes. The Senate resolution said Palestinians must end terrorism and stop “armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere.”

9. SYRIA MIGHT HAVE OBTAINED NUCLEAR HELP FROM ROGUE PAKISTANI… International investigators believe that Syria might have acquired nuclear technology from rogue Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan via the black market, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper says U.S. and European intelligence officials believe Khan met with Syrian nuclear officials in Syria in the late 1990s and later with them in Iran. Recently, U.S. electronic eavesdropping picked up signals indicating that Syria was operating centrifuges,
which enrich uranium for possible use in nuclear weapons.

10. NEW POLL: SHARON POPULARITY CONTINUES TO PLUMMET… A poll commissioned by the Hebrew daily Maariv and released on Friday shows Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a new low in popularity. Only 34% termed Sharon’s performance as “satisfactory,” down from 45% in the last poll. Regarding the possibility of the opposition Labor party entering the government, fewer than half (44%) of the nation is in favor.