Archive for December 16th, 2008

SWI NEWS: 19 Kislev 5769, Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Scene of the accident Fatal bus crash in south claims 25 lives (Video) Tourist bus dives 45-feet down off Highway 12 just north of southern resort city of Eilat. Event declared mass casualty event as large search-rescue team flock to area; 33 people injured  
VIDEO - At least 25 people were killed and 33 were injured Tuesday afternoon as a private bus carrying travel agents from St. Petersburg, Russia, and headed to Eilat from the Ovda Airfield in southern Israel, plunged into a dry river bed about 1.8 miles north of the resort town.   At around 3 pm, Magen David Adom emergency services and the police received a report of a bus which had derailed off Highway 12, north of Eilat, in an area housing multiple Israel Defense Forces bases.   The bus is believed to have originally been headed north, but it was forced to turn back due to IDF maneuvers in the area.   Emergency search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the scene of the accident, which was promptly declared a mass casualty event. Upon arriving, the team found the bus had plummeted down a 45-feet chasm, apparently flipping over several times, as it was found to be completely crushed.   Thirty ambulances and several civilian and military medevac helicopters were dispatched to the area to assist in the rescue and evacuation efforts. IDF forces were also called to the scene to assist in the rescue efforts,   Emergency personnel pronounced five people dead at the scene, and began rushing the injured to the Yoseftal Medical Center in Eilat and the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.   As the gravity of the situation unfolded, the MDA sent paramedics to Eilat via plane to reinforce the local station. The Health Ministry called on medical personnel in Eilat to rush to the Yoseftal Medical Center in order to assist with the triage efforts of the victims; as did the Leumit Health Fund, which ordered 40 doctors and nursed attending a conference in the city to report to the hospital.   The Soroka Medical Center shuttled several medical teams to Eilat, and the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer had 100 units of blood flown in for the local blood bank.   "The majority of the injured will eventually be transported to Soroka, since we are not equipped to deal with an event of such proportions," said hospital spokeswoman Naomi Yitzhak-Halevy.     Emergency forces dispatched to area  

'Bodies scattered everywhere'

Michel Elkaslasy, the owner of the company which rented out the bus to the tourist's travel agency, who rushed to the scene as soon as news of the crash broke, told Ynet that "the tourists arrived from Russia. The sight was horrible. The bus is upside-down at the end of nowhere... The bus apparently lost control. I see bodies scattered everywhere."   A., an eyewitness, told Ynet, "I was riding my bicycle from Eilat to Ovda. On my way back south, I saw two buses pass by. When I arrived at the turn I saw a lot of smoke. The second bus driver, who stopped, said the other bus skirted him and plunged down immediately.   The Immigration Absorption Ministry reported that the passengers were all tourist agents on an organized tour to Israel, adding that the Russian consul had been briefed and was making his way to the resort city.   The police, Magen David Adom and the Tourism Ministry have set up situation rooms and hotlines following the crash:
  • The police situation room: 972-2-6664358
  • MDA hotline: 1-700-500-430
  • Tourism Ministry hotline: 972-2-6664358
  Ilana Curiel, Yael Branovsky, Meital Yasur Beit-Or, Yael Levy, Hanan Greenberg, Efrat Weiss, Shachar Haselkorn, Ronny Gal and Liron Milshtein contributed to this report  
First Published:  12.16.08, 15:32

Photo: AFP  

Assad seeks Israeli stance on Golan

Sources familiar with unofficial Israel-Syria talks says Damascus has drafted paper defining Golan Heights boundaries, waiting for Israeli reply through Turkish mediators. 'Document puts us on the water (of Lake Kinneret),' Syrian official says  
Syria has drafted a document defining the boundaries of the Golan Heights and was waiting for an Israeli reply through Turkish mediators, sources familiar with the talks said this week.  President Bashar Assad recently told Western officials that Damascus wants Israel to take a clear position on the territorial problem between the two countries before agreeing to push stalled peace talks forward.   The Syrian document sets the boundaries with reference to six geographical points, the sources told Reuters.   "The president was clear that Syria wants to know the Israeli view about what constitutes occupied Syrian territory before progress could be made," one of the sources said.   "According to Syrian thinking, Israeli agreement on the six (geographical) points could help seal a peace deal next year. But Israel may not be able to provide a response any time soon, when it is in such political turmoil," a second source said.   The Prime Minister's Office said in response to the report, "We do not negotiate through the media."   Indirect talks between Syria and Israel, which were suspended about three months ago after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to resign over a corruption scandal, centre on the fate of the Golan Heights.   Israel captured the plateau in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it more than a decade later - a move unanimously rejected by the United Nations Security Council.   The two countries held almost 10 years of direct talks under US supervision that collapsed in 2000 over the scope of a proposed Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.   Bashar's late father, President Hafez Assad, refused to sign a deal that did not include the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a main water reservoir.   The late Assad regarded the northeastern shore as an integral part of the Golan and said that Syria was in control of it before the war broke out on June 4, 1967.   Israel captured the whole eastern shore along with the surrounding plateau in the war. The shoreline has been receding for decades. Under the Israeli proposal, Syria would have been only meters short of the northeastern shore.  

Father's legacy

Bashar has stuck to his father's line on the Golan.   A Syrian official said that the paper sent to Turkey includes reference to geographical points on the present northeastern shore of the lake. "The document puts us on the water," the official said.   Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara said last month that "the Syrian definition of the June 4 line means the restoration of the northeastern shore of the lake to Syria" and described Israeli arguments about the shoreline receding as invalid.   Diplomats in the Syrian capital said that even if the two sides make progress on the territorial question a deal might not follow easily because Israel now wants Syria to reduce its alliance with Iran and cut support for the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist groups.   "The situation is more complicated than in 2000 with Syria's external ties coming into play. Syria also wants agreement on the six points without direct negotiations, which might be difficult," one of the diplomats said.   Syrian officials have said Israel has no right to set conditions regarding its foreign policy but acknowledged that the political map of the region would change if Damascus and Israel sign a deal.   Assad told his visitors that Syria had received a document from Israel through Turkey with queries about Syrian relations with neighboring states after a possible peace, according to the sources. "The president said Syria has responded, but he did not say how," one said.   Olmert, who is still caretaker prime minister, has said he wants to renew the talks. Turkey also wants the talks to move to a direct mode from the four indirect rounds that have been held since April, the diplomats said.   A foreign official who has met Assad said the Syrian leader was not enthusiastic about holding a fifth round before the Israeli parliamentary elections in February, although European leaders have urged him to agree to one before then.   Roni Sofer contributed to this report  

Dutch threaten to boycott 'Durban II' The Dutch foreign minister threatened Tuesday to boycott a UN racism conference if anti-Israel statements are not scrapped from draft texts being drawn up for the meeting.
Anti-Zionist Jews and pro...
Anti-Zionist Jews and pro-Palestinian supporters participate in a protest march in Durban to coincide with the opening of the 2001 UN Racism Conference . Photo: AP , AP
Maxime Verhagen told Dutch radio he "will not be involved in anti-Semitism" at the April meeting in Geneva. Israel and Canada already have withdrawn. The United States has protested the conference, but has not decided if it will attend. "It seems like the sole intention is to criticize Israel and condemn the West for slavery and its colonial history," Verhagen said. At the last conference in South Africa in 2001, Israel and the United States walked out midway because of a draft resolution equating Zionism - Israel's founding ideology - with racism. The resolution was not approved. Verhagen fears a repeat performance in Geneva, and said the Dutch will withdraw unless the proposed resolutions are changed. "We won't take that decision lightly. We will take every opportunity at this time to fight racism
Russia mulls buying Israeli drones
  Russia is negotiating with Israel to buy a batch of spy drones, the head of the Russian armed forces said Tuesday, in what would be its first ever purchase of military hardware from the Jewish state.
An IAF Searcher UAV at...
An IAF Searcher UAV at Palmahim IAF base near Ashdod . Photo: Yaakov Katz
Israel sparked concern in Moscow after it previously sold drones to Georgia that were used successfully before and during its August war with Russia. Russia's weapons industries have failed to supply the military with drones, developing only experimental models that experts have described as outdated. Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said that Russia would like to buy an unspecified number of drones from Israel, the Interfax news agency reported. "We are working on this issue. We are talking about a test batch of Israeli drone planes," it quoted Makarov as saying. If finalized, the deal would mark an unprecedented delivery of Israelimilitary technology to the Russian military. During the Cold War years, Moscow supplied weapons worth billions of dollars to the Arab nations which fought Israel, and barred Jews from leaving the Soviet Union. Israel Aerospace Industries' spokesman Doron Suslik would not comment on Tuesday's report. But Israeli defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of Russia-Israel ties, confirmed the Russians had asked to buy the drones and said that Israel is considering the request. Defense Ministry envoy, Amos Gilad, will head to Russia Wednesday to try to persuade Russia not to sell advanced air defense missiles to Iran, the defense officials said. Gilad will also discuss the drone sale in his talks with Russian officials, they said. Russia's relations with Israel have improved steadily since the Soviet collapse, but some tensions remain. Israel has been concerned that Russia could sell its enemies, Iran and Syria, advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems. That would make any potential strike at Iran's first nuclear power plant - which Russia is helping to build - more difficult.

Russia sends warship group to Cuba in latest defiant naval move around US waters

DEBKAfile Special Report

December 15, 2008, 6:34 PM (GMT+02:00)

Admiral Chabanenko

Admiral Chabanenko

Russia is sending a group of warships to Cuba in its latest defiant naval move around US waters.

The warships will visit Havana on December 19-23, the Russian navy said. This will be the first visit to Cuba by Russian warships since the Soviet era. The visit will be led by the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko. Recently the ship took part in joint manoeuvres with Venezuela and became the first Russian vessel to navigate the Panama Canal since World War II.

Russia's Admiral Levchenko missile destroyer and a support ship will begin a visit to Lisbon on Friday 19.12, a Russian Navy spokesman added on Monday.

The Udaloy-class destroyer is part of a task force from Russia's Northern Fleet led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, which is currently on its way to the Mediterranean.

Following the visit, the task force will pass through the Strait of Gibraltar, visit several ports in the Mediterranean, and participate in joint drills with Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 Ryan Jones
Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty visits Jerusalem
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who came into the international spotlight as a possible running mate to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, visited with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Monday.
While the two men did discuss regional issues of importance to both their nations, the meeting focused on strategic relations between Israel and Minnesota in the development of renewable energy. According to a statement released by Olmert's office, Pawlenty and his team were keenly interested in Israeli advances in solar energy technologies, and enquired about forging commercial ties and increasing cooperation in this field  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 Ryan Jones
Palestinian 'peace' ads greet Israeli drivers
The Palestinian Authority has ramped up an advertising campaign to convince Israelis to back a Saudi-authored Arab peace initiative by purchasing billboard space along Israel's coastal highway.
The billboard informs Israelis that if they will surrender all of the land up to the Jewish state's pre-1967 borders, then in line with a 2002 peace proposal by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, the whole of the Muslim world, minus Iran, will promise to recognize Israel. A full page ad going into further detail about the Saudi plan was placed in all of Israel's major newspapers last month. In addition to its stated purpose, the campaign also appears to be directed at convincing Israelis and the world that the sole obstacle to peace is Israel's unwillingness to part with Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and the eastern half of Jerusalem. The campaign, and indeed the Saudi plan itself, make no mention of Arab terrorism against Israel's Jews, which predates Israel's seizing control of the disputed territories. Israeli leaders have previously responded to the Saudi plan with guarded enthusiasm, acknowledging what they call a step in the right direction, but insisting that they cannot agree to a full withdrawal unless terrorism has first come to a complete halt. There is also the concern that once surrendered, Judea and Samaria (the so-called "West Bank") would be taken over by Hamas, just as Gaza was following Israel's withdrawal from there, and that the Golan Heights would become a base of operations for Hizballah. Israeli officials have also noted that the Saudi plan offers no solution to the issue of "Palestinian refugees," giving Arab terror groups the justification they would need to continue attacking Israelis even after a deal was signed. And then there is the issue of the Jews' connection to the areas the Arabs demand. Judea and Samaria are the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people, and Jerusalem their holiest city. Most Israelis, while they do support a compromise peace deal with the Arabs, reject the notion of completely surrendering the lands that their people have dreamt of regaining for millennia.  

President Bush Holds Hanukkah Reception - WASHINGTON - Outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush hosted the annual White House Hanukkah reception Monday evening. This year's event featured the hanukkiyah (the traditional Hannukah candelabrum) given to former President Harry Truman by David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of the Jewish state.
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The Truman library loaned the hanukkiyah to the White House for the occasion. "A decade after President Truman received this gift, he visited Prime Minister Ben-Gurion for one of the last times," the President told the evening's 600 guests. "As they parted, Ben-Gurion told the President that as a foreigner he could not judge President Truman's place in American history, but the president's courageous decision to recognize the new State of Israel gave him an immortal place in Jewish history," Bush said. "I'm deeply moved to welcome the grandsons of these two great men, Clifton Truman Daniel and Yariv Ben-Eliezer, to light the Truman menorah together," he said. "The story of Hanukkah recalls the miraculous victory of a small band of patriots against tyranny and the oil that burned for eight nights. Through centuries of exile and persecution, Jews have lit the menorah. Each year, they behold its glow with faith in the power of God and love for His greatest gift -- freedom," he said. "This Hanukkah we celebrate another miraculous victory -- the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel," Bush said. "When President Harry Truman led the world in recognizing Israel in May of 1948, many wondered whether the small nation could possibly survive. Yet from the first days of independence, the people of Israel defied dire predictions," he recounted. "With determination and hard work, they turned a rocky desert into fertile soil. They built a thriving democracy, a strong economy, and one of the mightiest military forces on earth. Like the Maccabees , Israel has defended itself bravely against enemies seeking its destruction. And today, Israel is a light unto the nations -- and one of America's closest friends," the outgoing President said.    


Published:  12.16.08, 11:47 / Israel News

Ahuva Mamos

Latest Update:  12.16.08, 19:06 / Israel News