Security chief: Militants have 5,000 rockets
JERUSALEM | Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip have an estimated 5,000 rockets, some of them with a range of up to 25 miles, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Tuesday.
“In the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organizations continue to arm themselves, both manufacturing and smuggling [rockets],” Yuval Diskin told the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, officials at the closed door meeting said.
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad together have some 5,000 rockets with ranges up to 40 kilometers,” he said, pointing out that 4,000 of them belonged to Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
He warned that Hamas also had a few rockets with a greater range that could hit central Israel.
In December 2008, the Jewish state began an attack on the Gaza Strip to stop almost-daily rocket fire on southern Israel. The 22-day operation left an estimated 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
Aid group retreats after worker slain
ISLAMABAD | The international aid group Mercy Corps has suspended its operations in Pakistan after kidnappers killed one of its employees, the agency said Tuesday, the latest fallout from attacks on aid groups in the troubled nation.
Four Pakistani employees of Mercy Corps were abducted Feb. 18 as they drove to one of their offices in Quetta, the capital of southwest Baluchistan province. The staffers were working on health programs in the restive region.
A Mercy Corps press release said the agency recently learned that a 52-year-old driver in the group, a father of nine and identified only as Habibullah, had been slain earlier this month. There was no word on the fate of the other three staffers.
“It is shocking and tragic that someone dedicated to improving the lives of Pakistanis should be the target of such senseless violence,” Mercy Corps chief executive Neal Keny-Guyer said.
The Portland, Ore.-based agency did not say how long its work will be suspended. Mercy Corps has been working in Pakistan since 1986 on a variety of health, economic development and emergency relief programs.
As Islamist extremism has risen and the security situation deteriorated in Pakistan, aid groups including those overseen by the United Nations have been attacked and forced to scale back their activities.
Security chief: Hamas buys land in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM | The Islamist Hamas movement is buying land in Jerusalem as Palestinian groups jockey for influence in the disputed holy city, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Tuesday.
“Hamas is working through Dawas [Islamic missionary and charity groups] to buy land within the municipal borders of the city,” Yuval Diskin told the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, according to officials who attended the closed door meeting.
Jerusalem, holy to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, is one of the thorniest issues in the Middle East peace process and has been a frequent flash point between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem the capital of their promised state. Israel, which captured it in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community, lays claim to the entire city as its “eternal, indivisible capital.”
New autopsy set for beating victim
CAIRO | Egypt’s prosecutor general has ordered a new autopsy for the young man killed in an alleged police beating that has outraged government critics.
Khaled Said, 28, died on July 6 after an encounter with two plainclothes policemen. His family and human rights groups cite witnesses that said he was beaten to death in the street.
The Interior Ministry said he died after attempting to swallow a packet of drugs and choking to death.
Photos of Mr. Said’s shattered face have been circulated by activists as proof of the police brutality they say is routine in Egypt.
Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud on Tuesday transferred the case to Egypt’s top coroners.
The U.S. State Department said it has been in touch with Egypt over the case and has called for a transparent investigation.