- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

GAZA STRIP

‘Al Qaeda’ gunmen attack beach resort

JERUSALEM — Masked gunmen claiming to be from al Qaeda stormed a Gaza beach resort yesterday and blew up a reception hall in an attack aimed at intimidating a strongman allied with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a witness said.

No one was hurt because the resort was empty, except for a few guards, but the assault threatened to spark a new wave of internal violence, casting a cloud over the next round of talks on forming a Palestinian unity government between Mr. Abbas’ Fatah and the rival Hamas.

About 40 gunmen swarmed into the resort, which was a favorite of Israelis before Palestinian-Israeli violence erupted in 2000. Resort manager Yousef Sari said the gunmen had a warning for Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas confidant.

ISRAEL

Court releases deported U.S. imam

JERUSALEM — An Israeli military court has ordered the release of the deported former imam of Ohio’s biggest mosque, but he will remain in custody for at least two more days, his attorney said yesterday.

A military judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to hold Fawaz Damra, who was arrested by Israeli authorities 2 weeks ago after being deported from the United States, said attorney Smadar Ben-Natan. She said Damra will be held until tomorrow, pending a possible appeal.

Damra, 46, a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus who served as imam at the Islamic Center of Cleveland, was deported because of his ties to Islamic Jihad, a militant Palestinian group classified by Israel and the U.S. as a terrorist organization.

WEST BANK

Palestinian gunmen grab French diplomat

NABLUS — Palestinian militants seized a French diplomat and his two bodyguards yesterday in the West Bank city of Nablus, and released them two hours later to another French envoy, witnesses and the militants said.

A spokesman for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, part of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ faction, said weapons carried by the bodyguards initially raised suspicions that the men were undercover Israeli soldiers.

SAUDI ARABIA

Drug user ordered to memorize Koran

RIYADH — A Saudi court has ordered a drug user to spend six months memorizing the Koran, but he faces a year in prison if he fails to recite the Muslim holy book by heart, a newspaper said yesterday.

The “alternative sentence” saves the Saudi man from Jidda from a six-month jail term, al-Watan said. But that sentence will be doubled if his Koranic recitation classes fail to make him a “hafez,” someone who knows the Koran by heart.

There are more than 77,000 words in the Koran. It takes on average two years to study.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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