07.25.05 Update


Ariel Sharon accused far-right Israeli opponents of spreading a false rumor that he had suffered a heart attack. (JTA) Prompted by an unsourced beeper report Sunday that the prime minister had collapsed in cardiac arrest during Sunday's Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister's Office put out an urgent bulletin clarifying that all was well. Sharon himself urged fellow ministers to bear witness to the fact he was in perfect health. Later, in a speech, Sharon recounted the incident with a laugh but said: "This was also part of the incitement against me." He was referring to an increasingly robust right-wing campaign against the upcoming Israeli withdrawals from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, which has included efforts to call Sharon's policymaking abilities into question.

An Israeli army rabbi may face criminal charges for urging fellow soldiers not to take part in the upcoming Gaza withdrawal. (JTA) "We did not enlist for this, to deport Jews from their homes," Lieutenant Amital Barali of the Chaplaincy Corps said Sunday at a Gaza army checkpoint, in full view of television cameras. "It is an explicity illegal order." Military sources said Monday that the rabbi would undergo a disciplinary hearing, and may even face criminal charges such as a sedition. More than 40 Israeli soldiers, including officers, have been prosecuted for insubordination in connection with the upcoming withdrawals from Gaza and the northern West Bank.

Israeli forces captured a Palestinian would-be suicide bomber en route from the Gaza Strip to Tel Aviv. (JTA) The 18-year-old Al-Aksa Brigade terrorist apparently managed to climb over the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip last Friday, walking for several hours until he was intercepted near Kibbutz Nir Am. He was carrying an 11-pound bomb and told Israeli interrogators he planned to blow himself up in Tel Aviv. The Israeli media identified the terrorist as a relative of Salah Shehada, the Hamas chief assassinated by Israel in 2002. Police sources said that a Palestinian who is married to an Israeli Arab and lives in Jaffa was arrested on suspicion of serving as a guide to the would-be bomber.

Ariel Sharon extended Israeli condolences to Egypt after a major terrorist attack in Sinai. (JTA) The Prime Minister's Office said Sharon telephoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after an Al-Qaida-style cell bombed the Sharm el-Sheik resort on Saturday, killing at least 88 people and wounding more than 200. "The prime minister said that it is forbidden to compromise with Islamic extremist terrorism and added that it must be fought in every way," Sharon's office said. "Egyptian President Mubarak thanked Prime Minister Sharon for his condolences and said that Israel and Egypt would cooperate in the war on terrorism." Unlike similar attacks on Sinai resorts frequented by Israelis last October, there was only one Israeli casualty in the Sharm bombing - an Arab woman lightly wounded by shrapnel.

Jacques Chirac told Ha'aretz this week in an exclusive interview that he feels "profound admiration" and "friendship" for the State of Israel and the Israeli people. (JTA) The French president recently invited Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Paris to discuss the retreat from Gaza and the state of French-Israeli relations. The visit will take place on July 26 and 27. He said that France understands Israel's position on terrorism and that France is spearheading the fight against the global scourge. When asked about the high level of anti-Semitic incidents in France, Chirac answered: "France is not anti-Semitic, far from it, but it must fight the actions of violent extremists who are acting out of beastliness."

Palestinian terrorists killed an Israeli couple returning from a visit to the Gaza Strip. (JTA) Dov and Rachel Kol, of Jerusalem, were killed in their car by gunfire on Saturday night as they ended a weekend visit to the Gush Katif settlement bloc and headed to the Gaza-Israel boundary. Three other people in the car were wounded. Israeli troops killed two of the terrorists involved in the ambush. Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aksa Brigade and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed joint responsibility for the attack.

You are the high bidder: Ha'aretz reports that several items of significant Israeli historical importance, including the hanukkiah of David Ben-Gurion, has been placed for sale on eBay.

Congregation Beth Israel in Malden, MA is offering low-interest loans to Orthodox families willing to move to the area in order to boost its membership, which has dwindled from 300 to 100 members. WCVB TheBostonChannel reports here.

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