Nation & World Briefs

Federation Sets Up Hurricane Fund

The United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh (UJF) has established a mailbox to accept donations for humanitarian aid for members of the Jewish and general communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Western Florida.

Characterized by authorities as one of the most powerful hurricanes in U.S. history, Katrina battered Louisiana’s southeastern shore Monday morning, killing dozens, after first taking at least nine lives as it swept across South Florida on Thursday. Homes and businesses across the entire region have suffered massive damage.

The United Jewish Communities (UJC), UJF’s national partner agency, is working with federations in the affected regions. These federations are unprepared to handle donations and request that money be sent instead to such organizations as the UJF.

These federations will assess damage and help coordinate relief; UJC will serve as the conduit for distributing all funds collected by the Pittsburgh federation.

“When natural disasters have hit, the Jewish community has always been at the forefront of responding,” said Jeff Finkelstein, UJF president and CEO.”Just as our community reacted with such generosity to the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia last December, we anticipate an outpouring of concern once again from many in our community.

“Hurricane Katrina’s full impact is not yet fully realized,” he added, “and damages are already set in the billions. The emotional toll — and the damage to property and other tangibles — is likely to be well beyond anything we can imagine.”

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Terror Attack in Beersheba

After months of focusing on its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israel returned to an all-too-familiar experience this week: Palestinian terror.

A suicide bomber wounded 20 people Sunday at the central bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, the first such attack since the just-completed evacuation of settlements from Gaza and the northern West Bank.

It could have been bloodier. The bomber was blocked from boarding a bus, thanks to the vigilance of two guards who chased him away. Both were seriously hurt.

P.A. to Rename Settlements

The Palestinian Authority plans to rename Gaza Strip settlements after Yasser Arafat and Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Palestinian officials said this week that Arafat, the late Palestinian Authority president, and Yassin, the late founder of Hamas, were among the “martyrs” who would be honored in renaming the 21 settlements, most of which Israel built on empty land and which therefore did not have prior Arabic names. The Palestinian Authority is divided on a proposal to rename some settlements after suicide bombers, fearing that doing so risks alienating world opinion.

Gaza Protester Dies

An Israeli woman who set herself alight to protest the Gaza Strip withdrawal died. The 54-year-old West Bank resident succumbed Friday to injuries sustained Aug. 7 when she doused herself with kerosene and lit it at a police checkpoint outside Gaza. Police described the incident as a protest suicide. The woman was to be buried in her home settlement of Kedumim. She was the only Israeli fatality linked to the withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank, despite early predictions that the evacuation could spark bloodshed.

Kfar Darom Detainees Freed

Israel has freed scores of pro-settlement activists arrested during a violent Gaza Strip confrontation. A Beersheba court released the 175 detainees, almost a quarter of them minors, last week after they signed agreements not to take part in violent political protests. The decision to free the detainees, who were arrested after holing up on the roof of a synagogue in the Kfar Darom settlement last week as part of protests against the Gaza withdrawal, ran counter to earlier police pledges to see them prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Army to Eye Extremists

The Israeli army resolved to scrutinize extremists and potential terrorists among its conscripts. An internal military query into the Aug. 4 killing by an army deserter of four Israeli Arabs concluded Thursday that authorities failed to respond properly to warnings by the soldier’s family as well as an investigative reporter that he had become a right-wing extremist and was liable to resort to violence. Under the panel’s recommendations, which were accepted by top brass, the armed forces will work more closely with the Shin Bet’s Jewish Division, which monitors potential extremist threats. The army also will empower training officers to profile conscripts believed to have extremist political views and report them to higher authorities.

Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.