1. "Chinese caught trying to bug Israeli embassy" (East-Asia Intel.com, January 4, 2004)
2. "Israeli humanitarian groups still determined to send relief to Iranian quake victims" (Israel21c, January 4, 2004)
3. "A promotion for female [Israeli] soldiers [to combat duty]" (The Washington Times, December 31, 2003)
4. "Israel prepares for international arms scrutiny" (Scotland On Sunday, January 4, 2004)
5. "Israeli forces say goodbye to the Uzi" (Daily Telegraph, U.K., December 27, 2003)
I attach five articles mainly relating to Israeli military and security matters, with summaries first:
1. "Chinese caught trying to bug Israeli embassy" (East-Asia Intel.com, January 4, 2004). "A security officer in the Israeli Embassy in Beijing has caught a group of Chinese technicians last month attempting to plant electronic eavesdropping devices in the embassy's telephone lines."
2. "Israeli humanitarian groups determined to send relief to Iranian quake victims" (ISRAEL21c January 4, 2004). "Israeli humanitarian organizations have said that they are determined to send aid to Iranian victims of the lethal earthquake which rocked the country last week, despite the Iranian government's refusal to receive help from Israel."
3. "A promotion for female soldiers" (The Washington Times, Dec. 31, 2003). "Israeli army units with the first female infantry soldiers in 50 years are being upgraded to battalion status, a milestone in the fight of female soldiers to be accepted into combat roles in the Jewish state... The integration effort follows years of public pressure to allow women into combat..."
4. "Israel prepares for international arms scrutiny" (Scotland On Sunday, January 4, 2004) "Israel is considering for the first time the possibility that it might have to allow some form of international monitoring of its weapons programmes... Senior Israeli Defence and Foreign Affairs officials said they can no longer rule out such a change, now that Libya and Iran have been opened up to world scrutiny."
5. "Israeli forces say goodbye to the Uzi" (Daily Telegraph, U.K., December 27, 2003) "The Uzi sub-machinegun, a symbol of Israeli national identity, has been withdrawn from service by the defence forces after half a century. Compact, simple and resistant to dust and sand, the 9mm Uzi in its machine-pistol form, was designed by a former resistance fighter, Uzi Gal... Still used by the US Secret Service it was once the most widely distributed sub-machinegun in the West."
CHINESE CAUGHT TRYING TO BUG ISRAELI EMBASSY
Chinese caught trying to bug Israeli embassy
Special to World Tribune.com
January 4, 2004
A security officer in the Israeli Embassy in Beijing caught a group of Chinese technicians last month attempting to plant electronic eavesdropping devices in the embassy's telephone lines.
The officer spotted the technicians near a telephone switch box on the street near the embassy, according to the Ma'ariv newspaper.
The Chinese told the Israeli guard that they were from the Chinese Foreign Ministry information security department. The officer then asked the technicians to undo the work and leave.
The Chinese are known to conduct aggressive electronic eavesdropping operations on all foreign facilities in China.
This was not the first time the Chinese had tried to plant eavesdropping devices on telephone lines, which are used for encrypted communications as well as for open telephone calls.
ISRAELI HUMANITARIAN GROUPS DETERMINED TO SEND RELEIF TO IRANIAN QUAKE VICTIMS
Israeli humanitarian groups determined to send relief to Iranian quake victims
By ISRAEL21c staff
January 4, 2004
Israeli humanitarian organizations have said that they are determined to send aid to Iranian victims of the lethal earthquake which rocked the country last week, despite the Iranian government's refusal to receive help from Israel.
Following the major disaster last week, Iran has officially announced that they were willing to receive help from any country except for "the Zionist entity". The 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck on Dec. 26 at 5:30 AM, collapsing buildings in the city of Bam in southeastern Iran, severing power lines and shutting down water service. The quake's death toll is expected to exceed 20,000, and could be as high as 40,000.
Delegates from Israeli humanitarian relief groups met two days after the earthquake in Tel Aviv, and decided to provide assistance to survivors of the earthquake. Speaheaded by IsraAID, a humanitarian forum which coordinates Israeli efforts in providing aid to disaster areas across the globe, the meeting included representatives of the Topaz organization for youth at risk, the kibbutzim humanitarian fund, the First rescue organization, and other humanitarian groups.
"We decided to channel our efforts through an international organization operating in Iran," IsraAID director Shachar Zahavi told ISRAEL21c. They have asked the group to act as a conduit for their donation, apparently equipment such as tents and medicine. Due to the devastating scope of the earthquake damage, the Israeli relief workers believe that their assistance to Iran will continue for at least half a year.
"One result of the meeting is that all the humanitarian organizations that participated including funds, youth movements, and search and rescue teams have all convened under the umbrella of IsraAID," said Zahavi.
The Iranian announcement rejecting assistance of any sort from Israel will require that the groups receiving assistance from Israel keep a low profile, as they work on behalf of the earthquake victims.
"We don't deal with governments, only with people and NGOs," said Zahavi. "No matter where it was in the world, that's how we'd approach the situation. On behalf of the Israeli people, we wish to help the people of Iran, and from the indications we've received, they're willing to accept that help.
"We're not here to engage in provocation," Zahavi added. "The bottom line is to give aid to needy disaster victims."
Eran Weintrob, the general manger of Latet, another group which participated in the meeting, said, "if there are many people that are starving and injured and have no place to sleep, we don't ask and we don't argue and we don't think about political issues. We just act. If we can act, we will."
Iranian expert Menashe Amir, who heads Israel Radio´s Farsi (Persian) language radio service, which broadcasts daily news into Iran, said he had "no doubt" that the Iranian people would themselves accept aid from Israel. During the phone-in section of his program on Sunday, Amir said he received calls from Iranians responding positively to the Israeli offer of help.
"Most of the people who talked in the program thanked [Israel] warmly for offering help and criticized harshly the Iranian [regime for refusing it]," Amir told Cybernet News.
Some of the callers to the radio program, Amir said, told listeners not to send money to Iran because it is a rich country and the money would not make it to the people but could instead be funneled into the Palestinian militant cause.
The Israeli government offered condolences following the devastating earthquake in Iran, saying it had "no conflict" with the Iranian people, despite its enmity with the Islamic regime.
"The Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, addresses in the name of the Israeli Government and the people of Israel condolences to the Iranian people after the catastrophe," the Foreign Ministry said. "The Government and people of Israel are moved by the human tragedy experienced by the Iranian people and believe that despite all differences a mobilization of the whole international community is needed to come to the help of families of the victims and wounded," it said in a statement.
"The Iranian government said it didn't want help from Israel or the Zionist entity. But there is a huge need and the people don't care where they get the help from," Latet's Weintrob said.
The Umbrella Organization for Iranian Immigrants in Israel has contacted the Iranian Embassy in Britain regarding sending food, clothing, and other necessities. According to spokesman David Motei, the group received the go-ahead for contributions from "the Israeli people," but not the State of Israel, sent through intermediaries such as foreign embassies and the United Nations.
Weintrob listed medicine, stoves, blankets, and food as top priorities.
"We're trying to promote mutual responsibility in Israeli society, and we think if we want to be a strong society, even though we are experiencing a very bad situation economically right now, we should see ourselves as part of the wider world," Weintrob told The Jerusalem Post.
Large-scale Israeli assistance following a massive earthquake in 1999 in northwestern Turkey that killed over 15,000 people, and a huge earthquake in western India in 2001 that killed some 20,000 people, helped strengthen ties between Israel and those two countries.
In 1999 Israel airlifted to Turkey doctors and equipment for a field hospital, as well an emergency rescue team comprising 250 persons, sophisticated rescue equipment, and rescue dogs. And in 2001, Israel dispatched a field hospital and some 150 people to India to assist in rescue and medical efforts following the earthquake in Bhuj. The help Israel provided in these cases is still mentioned often by Turkish and Indian officials when discussing their ties with Israel, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.
According to IsraAID's Zahavi, the aid that Israel provides has a long-lasting effect far beyond the initial benefit to the victims.
"There really is very little knowledge in the world about what we do. We also want to get our message across in the countries we help. In my experience, people have responded well to us because they view our work as people helping other people, without the political element."
A PROMOTION FOR FEMALE SOLDIERS
A promotion for female soldiers
By Joshua Mitnick
The Washington Times
December 31, 2003
Israeli army units with the first female infantry soldiers in 50 years are being upgraded to battalion status, a milestone in the fight of female soldiers to be accepted into combat roles in the Jewish state.
For the past three years, female ground troops from Israel's Carcal company have patrolled the quiet desert borders with Jordan and Egypt, freeing up their male counterparts for duty in more dangerous areas. Now the military is appointing its first female company commander.
The integration effort follows years of public pressure to allow women into combat jobs - prohibited since the 1948 War of Independence - and could help boost the status of women in a society that glorifies the military.
Hoping to relieve units stretched thin by the Palestinian uprising, the army created predominantly female companies three years ago to patrol the border for drug smugglers and the rare terrorist infiltrator. Only men served on the more dangerous Lebanese border and in the Palestinian territories.
"Every combat soldier aspires to reach the most dangerous areas. That is why we enlisted," said 20-year-old Sgt. Shiran, whose full name cannot be published under Israeli military censorship rules.
"I've always known that I wanted to do things in the army that I wouldn't do as a civilian. I didn't think I could get the maximum out of it as a clerk."
Toting an M-16 rifle with a sniper scope, Sgt. Shiran still is an exception for women in the Israeli army. Most work far from the battlefield and serve as little as half the time required of men.
Israeli army doctors recommended in October that women be barred from service in combat units on the basis of medical studies showing that they are less able than men to lift heavy objects and carry out sustained, strenuous activities.
The doctors, however, said there was no objection to women serving in light infantry units along peacetime borders, as the Carcal company does, or as radar operators in intelligence units, where they have proved themselves on numerous occasions.
The United States bans women from ground combat units, which include artillery, infantry and armor. They may, however, serve on combat ships and aircraft. And they serve as military police, a job that in Iraq puts them close to counterinsurgency operations.
Carcal company, whose name is Hebrew for wildcat, has a 2-1 ratio for women to men and requires women to sign on for an extra year of service. The four-month boot camp includes training in urban warfare and 20-mile stretcher marches, a regimen based on other infantry brigades.
Male and female Carcal soldiers train together and share patrols in Humvees. The only place where the army insists on separation is in sleeping quarters on the base.
In recent years, the army also has opened artillery, antiaircraft and the air force pilots' course to women. Still, the idea of a mixed combat unit remains a foreign concept in Israel.
Sgt. Pini, one of the male members of Carcal, said he initially joined the company because he was promised a tour of duty on a tranquil border in a unit with "a lot of girls."
"I thought, 'Great, I'll have a girlfriend,' " he said. "It didn't work out that way. When you spend so much time together, it doesn't make a difference. Everyone becomes one of the guys."
The army has told the coed company that it probably will get transferred next year to a more sensitive site, which could mean the tense border with Lebanon or Israel's hotly contested security barrier in the West Bank.
Still, said army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal, the integration of women into the combat forces "is an ongoing process. We're past the beginning, but it's a developing thing. ... Until women reach higher ranks on the field, it's going to take time."
Sgt. Shiran said she sees the talk of a transfer as a vote of confidence. Even so, she acknowledged that it will be difficult to convince skeptics of the unit's abilities.
"There will always be doubts. It's human nature. People will always say a boy is strong and a girl is weak," she said.
Maj. Itai, a Carcal company commander and a former undercover commando, said he considers the unit a success but is waiting for a "moment of truth" that will prove that Carcal is up to the job.
"The army still has difficulty with the idea of women in combat. I hear this all the time from people above me," Maj. Itai said. "They don't think it's serious, that if there is an attack the girls will be afraid, or if one is taken prisoner the entire country will be in shock."
In the 1948 war, none of that mattered because Israel needed every available fighter. In the north, women were in units that detonated bridges to block the advance of the Lebanese army. In Jerusalem, they held out during a prolonged siege.
When the war ended, a separate women's corps was established, ending the utilization of nearly all female combat soldiers. Decades passed before Israelis began reconsidering the status of women in the military.
ISRAEL PREPARES FOR INTERNATIONAL ARMS SCRUTINY
Israel prepares for international arms scrutiny
By Ross Dunn in Jerusalem
Scotland On Sunday
January 4, 2004
Israel is considering for the first time the possibility that it might have to allow some form of international monitoring of its weapons programmes.
Senior Israeli Defence and Foreign Affairs officials said they can no longer rule out such a change, now that Libya and Iran have been opened up to world scrutiny.
Israel expects to be asked to show at least some of its cards, after Libya agreed to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and Iran consented to international monitoring of its nuclear facilities.
While observers believe that Israel will never open up its secret nuclear programme to inspection, it may offer to compromise in other areas, in particular the development of chemical weapons.
Israel is believed to have a secret understanding with the United States that it needs to have atomic weapons as long as there are elements in the Middle East hostile to the existence of the Jewish state.
Commentators believe Israel will be called on to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the most ambitious attempt to date to monitor weapons globally.
The treaty seeks to wipe out all weapons with toxic gases by imposing a total ban on their development, manufacture, storage or use.
Israel accepted the treaty in 1993 but has never ratified its signature.
Officials in Israel's Industry and Trade Ministry have lobbied the government to ratify the treaty to avoid international sanctions being placed against the local chemical industry.
But their request was turned down by two previous prime ministers, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
One of the factors holding back Israel is the position of two of its neighbours, Egypt and Syria. Both countries are understood to possess chemical weapons and have refused to sign the international convention to eliminate them. Egypt and Syria argue that Israel must first abandon its atomic weapons.
But these two countries are coming under pressure to change their stance because of the actions of Iran and Libya.
Israel's position on atomic weapons is unlikely to change. It has never been a party to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). And even though Libya and Iran are signatories to the pact, Israeli observers have noted that it has not stopped these countries from violating the agreement.
Professor Gerald Steinberg of Tel Aviv's Bar-Ilan University said this shows Israel's need to remain on guard and to avoid pressure from the international community to change its position.
"The recent evidence justifies increased vigilance and continuing deterrence," he said. "In the preliminary inspections, Libya, like Iran, was found to have blatantly violated its commitments under the NPT.
"Un-safeguarded enrichment of uranium, an essential step for manufacturing atomic weapons, is prohibited [under the treaty], but went undiscovered by the International Atomic Energy Agency."
ISRAELI FORCES SAY GOODBYE TO THE UZI
Israeli forces say goodbye to the Uzi
By Toby Harnden in Jerusalem
Daily Telegraph, U.K.
December 27, 2003
The Uzi sub-machinegun, a symbol of Israeli national identity, has been withdrawn from service by the defence forces after half a century.
Compact, simple and resistant to dust and sand, the 9mm Uzi in its machine-pistol form, was designed by a former resistance fighter, Uzi Gal.
"It was a great moment for Israel," Lt Col Gal, who died in 2002 aged 79, once said, ". . . a weapon that the Jewish people had made for themselves, and I designed it from the ground up."
Still used by the US Secret Service it was once the most widely distributed sub-machinegun in the West.
It was withdrawn from front-line service by the Israelis some 20 years ago but continued to be used in training. It will still be exported.