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Hebron falls

Mid-January finally saw the signing of the long-delayed accord on Israeli troop withdrawal from most of Hebron, and later redeployments in rural Judea-Samaria. World leaders applauded. PM Binyamin Netanyahu said the agreement provided better security for Jewish residents of Hebron than the deal agreed upon by his Labour Party predecessors. Unconvinced, many of his traditional supporters said they felt betrayed.

US urged to act against slavery in Sudan

The umbrella group Abolitionist Leadership Council has called on the US government, black leaders, women's groups and churches to end their silence regarding the enslavement of black Africans in Sudan. A Christian Solidarity International worker showed a video of his purchase from an Arab slave trader of 58 black Christian slave children for about $100 each. Jane Alley, a native of south Sudan, described her escape from a slave raid on her village. She said female slaves who are chosen to become concubines have their genitals mutilated, to be made fit sexual partners for their Muslim masters.

Iran a threat to Europe?

Iran is developing missiles capable of travelling as far as 3500 kms, and which could be used to carry chemical or biological weapons to Europe, according to "western sources" quoted by the Bild daily newspaper in Germany. The chairman of the German parliament's Defence Committee, Klaus Rose, was quoted as saying there was a "credible threat" of missiles which could carry a payload in excess of 1 500 pounds and reach various targets in Western Europe. He said the German armed forces, along with NATO allies, were working on anti-missile-missile defence systems to counter the Iranian threat.

"Lockerbie was the price for peace"

In 1989, Pan AM flight 103 was bombed and destroyed over Lockerbie, Scotland. Both Israeli intelligence and the CIA knew that the outrage, which killed 270 people, was carried out by Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (General Command), based in and controlled by Syria. But US President George Bush was reluctant to blame Syria, lest this upset his Syria-Israel peace plans. A senior CIA official told the German magazine Focus that the Lockerbie bomb was carried by the Syrian national airline from Damascus to Berlin, and there given to Jibril's operators. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the US had blackmailed Syria with the Lockerbie affair, in order to force it into its anti-Iraqi coalition. As someone had to be blamed, Washington fingered Libya, and led UN efforts to impose sanctions against Tripoli. Asked by Focus whether the US would ever officially admit the truth about Lockerbie, the CIA official said: "It is doubtful whether my government can ever retreat from the Libyan version. Too much happened since 1991. The UN embargo [on Libya] has caused enormous damage. And Syria is on the brink of peace with Israel. I do not deny that the price of this peace is Lockerbie."

More Israelis, more Jews

Some 69 000 new immigrants arrived in Israel during 1996, according to figures released in January by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Israel's Jewish population grew by 2,3 percent during the last year. Meanwhile, a new study estimates the population of world Jewry at 13 million, of whom 35 per cent live in Israel, and 47 per cent in the US and Canada. Half the world's Jews live in one of nine cities, among them Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, New York, Los Angeles and Paris.

Syria accuses Lebanese Christians of collaborating with Israel

In an unprecedented attack against the Christians of Lebanon, Syria (whose army occupies much of that country) has launched a campaign to identify the Christians there as "Israel's extension inside the Arab world". Christian leaders are accused of "contacting the Zionist enemy and cooperating with the Israeli government". Pro-Syrian elements in Lebanon have joined the campaign. Assem Kanso, the former head of the Lebanese branch of the Ba'ath Party, called the anti-Syrian Christians "the Jews of the Arab hinterland" and warned "we will not have peace and unity before we uproot them and purify the country from their remnants". The Paris-based exiled Christian leader General Michel Aoun said in response "the identification of the Christians as Jews and Zionists is a prelude to massacres". The World Lebanese Organisation said "Syria's oppression of the Lebanese Christians is another form of war against Israel. Damascus' and Tehran's worse nightmare is to see an Israeli-Lebanese Christian alliance re-emerging in the eastern Mediterranean."

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