- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

GAZA STRIP

Militants threaten U.S. over leader

GAZA CITY — The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group yesterday threatened to retaliate against the United States if it tried to capture its Damascus-based leader.

Washington said Monday that it would offer a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, the Islamic Jihad leader. It offered the same amount for a member of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

“Violent operations will target all American interests” if the United States attempts to capture Mr. Shallah, said Abu Ahmed of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing.

Regarded by Israel and the United States as a terrorist group, Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly suicide bombings in Israel.

TURKEY

Israel accused of raising tensions

ANKARA — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the eve of a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, accused Israel yesterday of raising regional tensions with contentious construction work near Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque.

“We expect Israel to adopt an attitude that shows respect to the sanctity of the place and prevents the further escalation of tensions,” Mr. Erdogan told his Justice and Development Party. “At a time when we believe that new windows of opportunity are being opened in the [Middle East] peace process, this incident has disturbed and upset us.”

Weekly notes …

Iran banned an influential conservative news blog for acting against the constitution and spreading disunity, the state-run news agency reported. “The press office of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance announced the ban on the activities of the Baztab [Reflection] Web site,” the agency said. … Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday that the discovery that roadside bombs in Iraq contained material made in Iran did not necessarily mean Tehran is supplying insurgents. His comments called into question assertions Sunday by three senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad who said the highest levels of the Iranian government were responsible for arming Shi’ite militants in Iraq with the bombs, blamed for the deaths of more than 170 troops in the U.S.-led coalition.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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