Al-Qaeda to Syrian protesters: Israel’s next


Al-Qaeda urged Syrian rebels to save some of their anger for Israel and the United States.

Ayman al-Zawahri, the successor to the slain leader Osama bin Laden, in a video posting Wednesday denounced Syrian President Bashar Assad as “America’s partner in the war on Islam in the name of fighting terror.”

But while he commended Syrians, many of them Islamists, who rose up against the Assad regime four months ago, Zawahri said the revolt should reach well beyond Damascus.

“Tell both America and Obama: Our powerful uprising will not stop until we raise the victorious banner of jihad over Jerusalem,” he said.

At least 39 said killed and dozens wounded by Syria troops in Daraa


At least 39 people were killed and 70 wounded Monday by Syrian security forces in the southern city of Daraa, pro-democracy activists said, after the army moved into the city where the current wave of protests began, and fired at protesters.

“Bodies of the dead and wounded were seen in the middle of the streets, especially near the area of Al Omari mosque where the first spark of the Syrian uprising started on March 15,” an activist, who requested anonymity, told the German Press Agency DPA.

He said people bled to death on the streets as they could not be taken to hospital amid the gunfire. Army tanks had moved into Daraa and were taking aim at people and houses, the activist said, and snipers were positioned on rooftops.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Death toll in Syria protests climbs to at least 25


Security forces shot dead at least 25 pro-democracy protesters in Syria on Friday, human rights campaigners said,  as protesters flooded into the streets after prayers in at least five major areas across the country.

The protesters were killed in suburbs and towns surrounding Damascus, in the central city of Homs and in the southern town of Izra’a, two established Syrian human rights organisations keeping a tally of civilian deaths told Reuters.

Syrian security forces fired live bullets and tear gas at the tens of thousands of people shouting for freedom and democracy. 

Read more at Haaretz.com.

U.S.: Violence isn’t the answer to grievances of Syrian people


The White House on Friday condemned Syria’s violent crackdown on anti-government protesters and urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to promptly take concrete steps toward meaningful reform.

“The Syrian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” Jay Carney, spokesman for U.S. President Barack Obama, said in a statement. “Violence is not the answer to the grievances of the Syrian people.”

Assad announced limited steps toward reform this week, saying he was forming committees to look into civilian deaths and the possibility of replacing Syria’s despised emergency laws. At least 75 people have been killed in two weeks of demonstrations, including three on Friday.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Syria government resigns in effort to appease protesters


Syria’s Cabinet resigned Tuesday to help quell a wave of popular fury that erupted more than a week ago and is now threatening President Bashar Assad’s 11-year rule in one of the most authoritarian and closed-off nations in the Middle East.

Assad, whose family has controlled Syria for four decades, is trying to calm the growing dissent with a string of concessions. He is expected to address the nation in the next 24 hours to lift emergency laws in place since 1963 and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms.

More than 60 people have died since March 18 as security forces cracked down on protesters, Human Rights Watch said.

State TV said Tuesday Assad accepted the resignation of the 32-member Cabinet headed by Naji al-Otari, who has been in place since September 23. The Cabinet will continue running the country’s affairs until the formation of a new government.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

World Briefs


Report: Saudi Sponsorship Hidden

Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of an anti-Israel radio campaign
in the United States last year was reportedly hidden. The Saudi government,
through a Washington public relations firm, Qorvis Communications, spent
$679,000 alone on anti-Israel radio ads that ran in 15 U.S. cities last spring,
Time magazine reported this week. Qorvis initially said the ads were sponsored
by a consortium of Mideast policy groups called the Alliance for Peace and Justice.
But in a filing with the U.S. Justice Department last month, Qorvis revealed
that the funding actually came from the Saudi government, according to the
report.

The Saudis spent at least $14.6 million on anti-Israel
public relations in the United States last year, according to The New York Sun
newspaper.

Sharon Seeks Help From California Rep.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly asked a U.S.
congressman of Lebanese descent to assist in negotiations on a possible
prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
briefed Lebanese and Syrian authorities about the Israeli request and his plan
to comply with it, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported, citing the
Arab-language Al-Hayyat newspaper. In recent months, Issa has met with
relatives of captured and missing Israelis in Lebanon, the report said.

Protests Spur Hitler Show Revision

Under fire by Jewish groups, CBS executives will rework an
upcoming TV miniseries about the young Hitler. CBS President Leslie Moonves
said the upcoming “Hitler: Origins of Evil” will include new material in
addition to the biography upon which it’s based, due to concerns by some Jewish
scholars and organizations that the series would humanize Hitler, the New York
Daily News reported. “I don’t think anybody is going to walk out of this
miniseries saying, ‘Gee, you made Hitler into Tony Soprano,'” Moonves said.

Report: Arabs Threaten Olympic
Games

Islamic extremist groups reportedly have threatened to bomb
the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens if security is assigned to a consortium that
includes Israeli companies.

In addition, Arab nations are threatening to boycott the
Olympics if the SAIC Team gets the security contract for the Games, according
to the Greek newspaper Avriani.

According to Avriani, a classified report from Greece’s
government security service mentions that the possibility of using a “Jewish
company” for security at the Games “will blow the Olympics into the air.”

The so-called “Jewish company” — the SAIC Team — actually is
a U.S. consortium that includes two Israeli companies and several Greek
companies.

The report says that some SAIC Team employees come from the
Israeli secret services. The report also notes the possibility of attacks
before the Games, as Muslim groups reportedly have threatened a bombing blitz
if a Jewish company receives the Olympic security contract.

Greece also is reportedly concerned that one of the Israeli
companies on the team has signed a cooperation agreement with Turkey, Greece’s
longtime rival. Greece’s Ministry of National Defense noted that national
security could be compromised if the Israeli company gains access to classified
information.

For this reason, the Israeli company’s insignia has been
dropped from a recent SAIC Team advertising campaign.

U.S. Holocaust Museum Turns 10

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will soon commemorate its
10th anniversary. To mark the anniversary, the museum will present selections
of Anne Frank’s writings. The display opens on June 12, which would have been
the famed diarist’s 74th birthday, and runs through Sept. 12.

“Our first decade taught us that Holocaust history has the
power to speak to everyone — from inner city students to religious leaders,
from Naval Academy midshipmen to the police and FBI,” said the museum’s
director, Sara Bloomfield.

Since its dedication on April 22, 1993, the Washington-based
museum has welcomed nearly 19 million visitors, including 5.5 million school
children, 2.2 million international visitors and 72 heads of state, according
to museum officials.

Muslim Helps Save Brooklyn
Synangogue

A Muslim from Pakistan helped save a Brooklyn synagogue. The
man, who worked at a gas station near the Congregation Young Israel of Kings
Bay, became suspicious when another man came by several times to fill a
container with gasoline. The man called police when he saw the second person
dousing the synagogue with the gasoline. Police soon arrived at the scene and
arrested the alleged perpetrator, who said he wanted to “get back at the Jews.”
The gas station attendant, who was applauded by local Jewish officials and
politicians, said his religious beliefs prompted him to contact the police.

French Leaders Support Rabbi Injured in
Attack

Four former prime ministers of France came to a solidarity
service for a Paris rabbi who was stabbed earlier this month. Rabbi Gabriel
Farhi said his assailant yelled in Arabic, “Allah is Great,” but police say
they have not ruled out the possibility that the attacker was a Jew with
far-right political views who opposed Farhi’s Reform movement. Farhi was
lightly wounded in the Jan. 3 attack.

Last Friday’s ceremony in a small Paris synagogue was so
full that members of the crowd, which included France’s interior minister and
other government officials, had to stand outside. A letter of support also was
read from British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Chummy Dolphins Penned

Vacationers at the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat will no
longer be able to swim with the dolphins, after the sea mammals became a little
too chummy in hitting up bathers for snacks. Nature Reserve Authorities said
the dolphins had become accustomed to being fed by visitors and became
aggressive when they were met empty-handed, Israel Radio reported. As a result,
officials warned the public to stop feeding the dolphins and restricted the
mammals to the Dolphin Reef.

Russia Denies Reactor Deal with Syria

An announcement from the Russian Foreign Ministry that Moscow
is building a nuclear reactor in Syria was mistaken, according to a Russian
official. A senior adviser to the Russian minister of atomic energy, Nicolai
Shingrab, said that even though Syria and Russia have been holding “very
general” discussions on the matter for the past two years, no agreement has
been reached because Syria could not afford to buy

Bin Laden Key Chain a Hit

An Osama bin Laden key chain reportedly is popular among
Palestinians. “They’re very popular, especially among taxi drivers and
children,” a shopkeeper in Ramallah told the Jerusalem Post. According to the
merchant, the popularity of the key chains reflects anti-U.S. sentiment among
Palestinians.

Three Palestinians Killed in
Clashes

Three Palestinians were killed during Israeli operations in
the West Bank on Wednesday. In Tulkarm, Israeli troops shot and killed a
Palestinian youth who threw firebombs at them. Palestinians said another youth
was killed during clashes there. Near Jenin, a 45-year-old Palestinian was
killed during an army operation to arrest two Tanzim members armed with rifles,
grenades and ammunition. In Jenin, troops arrested four other wanted
Palestinians, including a local military commander who planned suicide attacks
in Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli police and soldiers on Wednesday
destroyed the homes of an East Jerusalem-based terrorist cell responsible for
killing 35 Israelis. The attacks attributed to the so-called Silwan cell
include last July’s bombing at the Hebrew University and suicide attacks at a
Jerusalem cafe and a pool hall in Rishon le-Zion. In another development, on
Tuesday, the army closed two Islamic colleges in Hebron. The action was part of
Israel’s response to the Jan. 5 double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in which 23
people were killed.

Germany Bans Islamic Group

Germany’s interior minister outlawed an Islamic organization
that he accused of spreading anti-Semitic propaganda. The group, Hizb
ut-Tahrir, “is distinguished by the fact that it is active in universities with
anti-Semitic slogans,” Otto Schily told a Germany TV station Wednesday. He
added that the group had long been under observation by German authorities. The
Interior Ministry said the group advocates the destruction of Israel and the
killing of Jews.

Campaign for ‘Portuguese Dreyfus’

A Jewish group reportedly launched a campaign to clear the
name of a man known as the “Portuguese Dreyfus.” The Jerusalem-based Amishav
organization is trying to persuade the government of Portugal to posthumously
clear the name of Arthur Barros Basto, according to The Jerusalem Post. Basto
was a Jewish army captain driven out of the Portuguese military on trumped-up
charges in the 1940s. “This year marks the 60th anniversary of Capt. Barros
Basto’s discharge from the military,” said Amishav’s director, Michael Freund.
“He was a Jewish hero and role model, and his only transgression was that he
sought to inspire people to return to Judaism at a time when that was not
popular with either the Portuguese government or the Church authorities.”

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency