- The Washington Times - Monday, February 22, 2010

ISRAEL

West Bank shrines added to heritage list

JERUSALEM | Israel is adding two key West Bank holy shrines to its list of national heritage sites, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, staking a claim that angered Palestinians, who want Israel out of the West Bank.

Mr. Netanyahu, addressing a session of his Cabinet at a heritage site in the Israeli Galilee, said the two sites were late additions to the list, reflecting pressure from settlers and other nationalists to widen the heritage category to include Old Testament sites in the West Bank.

One of the sites, in the city of Hebron, has been a flash point for decades. Jews call it the Cave of the Patriarchs, where the Bible says the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried along with three of their wives.

Muslims call it the al-Ibrahimi mosque, reflecting the fact that Abraham is considered the father of both Judaism and Islam.

Hebron is a focus of violence because it is the only place in the West Bank where Jews live among Palestinians. About 500 Israeli settlers, some of them extremists, live in enclaves near the disputed holy site, guarded by Israeli soldiers who control part of the city where about 170,000 Palestinians live.

The other new heritage site is the traditional tomb of the biblical Rachel on the outskirts of Bethlehem, about 12 miles north of Hebron. Israel’s West Bank separation barrier juts into Bethlehem to put the site under Israeli control.

IRAQ

2 U.S. pilots killed in helicopter crash

BAGHDAD | Two Army helicopter pilots were killed in an accident on a base in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said Sunday.

The military said in a statement that no “enemy forces” were present and no hostile fire was reported.

It said the aircraft made a “hard landing” Sunday near an airfield inside the base, but gave no further details. The military often uses the phrase “hard landing” to mean a crash.

The statement said the accident was under investigation, and the pilots’ names were being withheld pending notification of the next of kin.

ISRAEL

Huge new drone can reach Iran

TEL NOF AIR FORCE BASE | Israel’s air force on Sunday introduced a fleet of huge pilotless planes that can remain in the air for a full day and fly as far as the Persian Gulf, putting rival Iran within its range.

The Heron TP drones have a wingspan of 86 feet, making them the size of Boeing 737 passenger jets and the largest unmanned aircraft in Israel’s military. The planes can fly at least 20 consecutive hours and are used primarily for surveillance and carrying diverse payloads.

At the fleet’s inauguration ceremony at a sprawling air base in central Israel, the drone dwarfed an F-15 fighter jet parked beside it. The unmanned plane resembles its predecessor, the Heron, but can fly higher, reaching an altitude of more than 40,000 feet, and remain in the air longer.

INDONESIA

Obama statue moved from park to school

JAKARTA | A statue of Barack Obama as a boy was placed late Sunday night at the Jakarta elementary school that the U.S. president once attended, after its display in a public park prompted backlash in the Indonesian capital.

The re-placement of the bronze statue a week after it disappeared from public view was a low-key event officiated by the school’s principal and three local education officials. Scores of proud students had been among the crowd of 500 watching when Jakarta’s mayor unveiled the statue in the nearby park in December.

The likeness, based on a childhood photograph of Mr. Obama, shows a 10-year-old boy smiling at a butterfly perched on his outstretched thumb.

Many Indonesians are proud of Mr. Obama’s connections to Indonesia, but detractors of the statue’s park display argued that an Indonesian hero should be honored instead. A Facebook campaign attracted more than 50,000 supporters of the statue’s removal, and court action was initiated to force it.

IRAN

Security forces kill 4 Kurdish separatists

TEHRAN | Iranian security forces killed four members of a Kurdish separatist group involved in deadly clashes last year in the northwest of the country, state media said Sunday.

“Personnel of the Intelligence Ministry ambushed and killed a four-member team, affiliated to the Komouleh terrorist group, responsible for the deaths of three security officers in that province in late December,” the report on state television said, citing the ministry in West Azerbaijan province.

It was not clear whether the report was referring to an Iranian Kurdish Marxist group or the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which took up arms in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey.

Iran said PJAK was behind the death of a Justice Ministry official in Khoy city in West Azerbaijan last month.

EGYPT

Bomb thrown at Cairo synagogue

CAIRO | A man hurled a suitcase containing a makeshift bomb at Cairo’s main downtown synagogue early Sunday, police said.

According to police, a man entered a hotel on the fourth floor of a building across from the synagogue at about 3 a.m. and abruptly threw his suitcase out the window.

The case contained four containers of gasoline, each attached to a glass bottle of sulfuric acid meant to shatter on impact and ignite the makeshift bomb, said police, who speculated that the man may have panicked.

The bag, which also contained clothes, cotton strips, matches and a lighter, fell onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel and briefly caught fire before being extinguished. No injuries were reported, and the historic synagogue was not damaged.

The suspect fled the scene and was being sought by police.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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