Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 19, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Build Bomb Shelters Near Gaza (UPI/Washington Times)
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Thursday that Israel will spend $70 million to build bomb shelters near the Gaza border.
    Olmert said he made the decision after determining six years of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza was threatening the "inner balance" of the communities.
    He said homes up to five miles away from Gaza will be eligible for bomb shelters in the near future.

Israel HighWay
- January 18, 2007

Issue of the Week:
    Israel Activism on Campus

Hizbullah Inside America - David Asman (FOX News)
    FOX News presents a breakthrough documentary, "Smokescreen: Hizbullah Inside America," Saturday, January 20, 8 p.m. EST.

Abbas' "Rifles" Statement Questioned (JTA)
    The umbrella body for U.S. Jewish groups expressed "deep concern" at the call by Mahmoud Abbas for Palestinians to "raise rifles" against Israel.
    "Let a thousand flowers bloom and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles, be aimed at the occupation," Abbas said at a Jan. 11 rally in the context of urging Palestinians to end internecine warfare.
    In a statement Wednesday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations noted the context but added, "This call for terror against Israelis casts doubt on the sincerity of" earlier statements committing Abbas to an end to violence.
    "His extreme rhetoric also undermines the diplomatic effort the U.S. administration is undertaking to try to make progress in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
    Last week, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to confront Abbas about the statement.

Lebanon Villagers, Peacekeepers Clash (AP/Washington Post)
    Spanish peacekeepers policing the Israeli-Hizbullah ceasefire took up combat positions Wednesday after angry residents confronted them over their presence in the southern Lebanese village of Zaoutar, just north of the Litani River.
    A spokesman for the peacekeepers said there were no clashes and no one was hurt in the incident.
    UNIFIL spokesman Liam McDowall said the Spanish unit was inspecting the roads when "some residents expressed concern" about their presence.
    He said UNIFIL does not operate north of the Litani River and that the troops were there to inspect routes that could be used by their vehicles.

Canada Teachers Union Rejects Boycott of Israel - Omar El Akkad (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    A branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation Thursday voted down motions to boycott Israel.

Photos: Civil War Ahead in Gaza? - Dominic Waghorn and Richard Mosse (Sky News-UK)
    Hussein Ghraib, standing in the ruins of his relative's house, said the Israeli army would never have done what his Palestinian brothers in Hamas did to his family.
    Gaza is awash with weapons and fighters.
    Sameh el Madhoun, a brigade commander, patrols his neighborhood under constant fear of assassination by Hamas.
    Sameh has turned his family home into a fortress against Hamas and has already survived several attempts on his life.

Gaza Violence Scares Away Foreign Aid and Media - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Samir Skaik wanders around his almost empty beachfront hotel in Gaza wondering whether foreigners who are its livelihood will ever return.
    Most of his regular guests have been scared away by a spate of kidnappings of foreign journalists and aid workers by gunmen pressing the Palestinian government for jobs or favors, or seeking ransoms from international organizations.
    At least 17 foreigners have been kidnapped over the past year in Gaza.
    Simon McGregor-Wood, chairman of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel, said fewer foreign journalists have been going to Gaza due to the uncertain security situation.

Internet a "Virtual Terrorist Training Camp" (AKI-Italy)
    Radical Muslim organizations currently operate between 100 and 200 websites offering bomb-making manuals and step-by-step video instructions, and more, Netherlands national counter-terrorism coordinator Tjibbe Joustra says in a new report, quoted by Radio Netherlands.

"Temporary Marriage" in Islamic Iran - Lily Mazahery (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran's new Islamic-guided government has established a system of legalized prostitution, through the practice of "sigheh" or "temporary marriages," by which a mullah arranges a "legal union" between a man and a girl (some as young as nine years old) for a fee.
    The so-called marriage can last anywhere from one hour to 99 years.
    Under this system, men are free to enter into as many temporary marriages as they so desire, without having any legal obligation or responsibility toward the women and children that they "marry," only to use as sexual objects and slaves.

Israel Grows Beating Heart Tissue, Blood Vessels - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    Beating cardiac tissue has been created in the lab from human embryonic stem cells by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's biomedical engineering faculty and the Rappaport Medical Faculty.
    In addition, researchers Dr. Shulamit Levenberg and Prof. Lior Gepstein also managed to bring about the creation of tiny blood vessels within the tissue, which makes possible its implantation in a human heart.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • For Israelis, a New Worry: Iran's Nuclear Intentions - John Murphy
    In the pine-tree-shaded hills outside Jerusalem, the Israeli government is building a massive war bunker where top government officials would take shelter in case of a biological, chemical or nuclear attack. The government ordered the construction of the labyrinth of underground tunnels and rooms years ago - long before the current fears of Iran's nuclear ambitions - but its expected completion date in the next year or two could not be more timely.
        Speaking this week in Jerusalem, Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defense minister, bemoaned the world's reluctance to take stronger action against Iran to stop its nuclear program, which threatens not only Israel, but much of the world, he said. "What I call upon them to do is wake up!" Sneh said. "Imagine that this regime - the powerhouse of terrorism in the region, with its ambitions of expansion and domination of the entire region - would have the power of nuclear blackmail. What would life in this region look like? Not only Israel, but other countries as well. That's why we believe everything should be done in order to avoid it." (Baltimore Sun)
        Also listen to Audio: "The Implications of a Nuclear Iran" - Deputy Minister of Defense Ephraim Sneh (ICA/JCPA)
  • U.S. Launches Armed Force to Block Iranian Influence in Iraq - Anna Mulrine
    The U.S. military has launched a special operations task force to break up Iranian influence in Iraq. Task Force 16 was created late last year to target Iranians trafficking arms and training Shiite militia forces. The operation is modeled on Task Force 15, a clandestine cadre of Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force soldiers, and CIA operatives that killed al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, last June. The new force is part of an escalation of military countermeasures against Iran, authorized by President Bush, to strike back at what military officials describe as a widespread web of Iranian influence in Iraq that includes providing weapons, training, and money to Shiite militias.
        Iran's efforts to foment chaos in Iraq are primarily carried out by the Iranian intelligence service and the Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds (Jerusalem) Brigade, the foreign operations arm of the Iranian military, which also supports Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, told the Senate last week, "we know that Iranian-supplied and -made weapons are on the streets of Baghdad killing our troops." U.S. officials, including the president, have stopped just short of directly blaming Iranian government leaders for American deaths in Iraq - a claim that, if made, could lead to pressure for U.S. military action against Iran itself.
        In Baghdad neighborhoods like Karrada, south of Sadr City, U.S. soldiers have arrested suspects who speak only Iran's Farsi language. A U.S. soldier south of Sadr City adds that he is increasingly told by locals that Iranians are coming to live in certain areas. (U.S. News)
  • Rebuke in Iran to Ahmadinejad on Nuclear Role - Nazili Fathi and Michael Slackman
    Just one month after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear program, two hard-line newspapers, including one owned by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on Iran president Ahmadinejad to end his involvement in Iran's nuclear program. In the hazy world of Iranian politics, such a public rebuke was seen as a sign that the supreme leader - who has final say on all matters of state - might no longer support the president as the public face of defiance to the West. It was unclear, however, whether this was merely an effort to improve Iran's public image by lowering Ahmadinejad's profile or was signaling a change in policy. (New York Times)
  • Former Hizbullah Leader: Hizbullah Is an Integral Part of Iranian Intelligence; Lebanon War an "Unsuccessful Adventure"
    In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa on Dec. 14, 2006, former Hizbullah secretary-general Sheikh Subhi al-Tufeili said: "It wasn't like this in the beginning. Hizbullah's activity was limited to resistance [operations]....But, unfortunately, the problem has developed today to the point where they have succeeded in changing Hizbullah from a resistance force into a tool to be used in [whatever] direction they want."
    Q: "Does this mean that Hizbullah does not make its own decisions, and that its orders come from outside [Lebanon]?"
    Al-Tufeili: "Yes, Hizbullah is a tool, and it is an integral part of the Iranian intelligence apparatus."
    Q: "Can you see any justification for the July [2006] war after southern Lebanon was liberated in 2000?"
    Al-Tufeili: "If [the war] had gotten worse, it could have led to the loss of the [entire] country....Are we allowed to destroy our country [just] so we can say that we abducted two soldiers - when we all knew what the magnitude of the Israeli response [would be]? What happened was an unsuccessful adventure."  (MEMRI)
        See also Hizbullah Image Suffers in South Lebanon Village - Tom Perry
    "For me, Hizbullah has changed completely," said shopkeeper Ghada Ghadir in the Sunni village of Shebaa in mainly Shi'ite south Lebanon. "It's no longer resistance. It's a big problem." (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • King Abdullah: Jordan Will Develop Nuclear Power - Akiva Eldar
    Jordan aspires to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, King Abdullah II of Jordan said Thursday. "The rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the whole region. Where I think Jordan was saying, 'we'd like to have a nuclear-free zone in the area,' after this summer, everybody's going for nuclear programs....The Egyptians are looking for a nuclear program. The GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] are looking at one, and we are actually looking at nuclear power for peaceful and energy purposes. We've been discussing it with the West." (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Gives Abbas $100 Million - Ronny Sofer
    $100 million in Palestinian tax funds withheld by Israel since the Hamas government came to power one year ago were transferred Friday to Mahmoud Abbas according to agreements reached by Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert during their meeting a few weeks ago. The prime minister's office clarified that the money would only be transferred after the Palestinians guarantee a system that would prevent the money from reaching the Hamas government. According to the plan, the money is to be used to strengthen Abbas' presidential guard and to fund humanitarian needs. (Ynet News)
  • New UN Secretary General Says He Will Work toward Captive IDF Soldiers' Release - Shlomo Shamir
    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday told Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the UN, that he would do everything in his power to ensure the abducted Israeli soldiers are released. Gillerman reiterated Israel's demand for a sign of life from the soldiers.
        Gillerman told Ban, "The UN needs to deal more with the Iranian threat." Ban replied that denying the Holocaust, and the declarations by Iranian President Ahmadinejad about Israel's destruction, are unacceptable. Ban also pledged to act against arms smuggling from Syria and Lebanon, saying he would "spare no effort to implement Resolution 1701." (Ha'aretz)
  • Arab World Salutes Halutz - Guy Bechor
    IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz's resignation caught the Arab world by surprise. The prevailing view among the Arab public six months after the war in Lebanon is that Hizbullah did not win, and wasn't defeated. This view is largely prevalent among leaders, among the large Sunni institutions, and among the more educated strata of Arab society in general. Deep in their hearts, key Arab leaders, who would have preferred this war had never taken place because it strengthened their sworn enemies - the Shiites and political Islam - had hoped that Israel would strike a heavy blow at these forces, and in so doing cut them down to size.
        On the Arab Internet, the lion's share of surfers at key news sites expressed surprising readiness for soul searching. "The Israelis distanced Hizbullah from its borders, killed 1,200 of its combatants, destroyed its infrastructure, and positioned the Israel Defense Force in the north. Is this deemed a victory?" wrote a surfer from Cairo. Another wrote, "Ask the Lebanese people who lost this war. They know the truth all too well." The majority of surfers didn't ridicule Halutz. On the contrary, they expressed understanding and support for his actions. Many wrote that this is a lesson that should be learned by the entire Arab world, that when mistakes are made they should be rectified. "If only the Arab leadership would learn from Israel," wrote someone from Egypt. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • International Pressure Emboldens Tehran's Domestic Critics - Mehdi Khalaji
    Prior to the UN Security Council sanctions resolution, Iranian reformers voiced only sporadic opposition against the country's nuclear policy. They have now stepped up their rhetoric. More significantly, conservatives are also speaking up. Hamshahri - the most widely read newspaper in Iran, whose director, Hossein Entezami, is a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team - recently ran an article complaining, "At the very moment when the nuclear issue was about to move away from the UN Security Council, the fiery speeches of the president have resulted in the adoption of two resolutions [against Iran]." The lead editorial in the January 9 issue of Jomhuri Islami complained about Ahmadinejad's rhetoric: "The manner of publicizing the nuclear issue in your speeches is such which suggests to the audience that, Heaven forbid, you are giving so much prominence to the nuclear issue so that the problems of the government cannot be seen."
        Criticism of Ahmadinejad's failure to deliver on exaggerated promises is widely voiced by those who previously supported him, as are complaints about his high-handed manner. The writer is a Next Generation fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Coalition of the Concerned Rallies to Resist Ahmadinejad - Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Gareth Smyth
    A new political coalition is emerging in Iran in response to growing U.S. pressure, especially over Tehran's nuclear program, and in concern over the radical approach of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in both foreign and domestic policy. It stretches from reformists and even secular intellectuals to fundamentalists. "New informal regroupings are being formed based on concern...over the fate of the country and the regime," said Behzad Nabavi, a leading reformist. "A common sense of danger [is overcoming] differences over democracy and cultural issues."
        With the UN resolution and U.S. military build-up feeding fears that Washington's aim is not stopping Iran's uranium enrichment but overthrowing its regime, senior figures argue, the national interest cannot tolerate an inexperienced president whose rhetoric is inflammatory. However, "Ayatollah Khamenei still doesn't believe the president should go," said a former Iranian diplomat. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Does Rice Bring More than Talk? - Richard Beeston
    Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, arrived in London Thursday to brief Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, on her attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. The diplomatic push is seen as a move by the Bush Administration to win acceptance for America's wider policy in the Middle East. There seems little hope of a breakthrough after more than six years of violent confrontation. There are suspicions that America's diplomatic initiative is little more than window dressing to show the world, particularly Arab public opinion, that it is doing something. Washington's main focus remains trying to resolve the disastrous situation in Iraq and to blunt what it regards as the increasing power in the region of Iran. (Times-UK)
  • How to Engage Syria, If You Must - David Schenker
    The Bush administration took a pass on the Iraq Study Group's controversial recommendation to engage with Syria and Iran, in an effort to convince these state sponsors of terrorism to play a more productive role in Iraq. Instead, the president said that U.S. forces would "interrupt the flow of support" to the insurgency from these states. The White House's own extensive efforts at dialogue failed miserably, leading the Bush administration to the conclusion that engagement was unhelpful at best, and counterproductive at worst.
        Some seem to argue that engagement can't hurt. Regrettably, the Bush administration's experience has proven otherwise. Meetings, in which U.S. emissaries delivered blunt messages to Assad, were spun by Damascus as "breakthroughs" in Syrian-U.S. relations, undermining the morale of the region's democrats and alleviating pressure on the regime.
        Rep. Tom Lantos, incoming chairman of the House International Relations Committee, met with Assad In 2003. After the meeting, Lantos returned to the Damascus Sheraton hotel and gave an unprecedented press conference, reviewing the full litany of U.S. grievances with Syrian policy, from human-rights abuses, to active undermining of stability in Iraq, to Syrian support for Palestinian terrorists and Hizbullah. His courageous public message countered the potentially negative implications of the visit. Given Syria's continuing problematic behavior, engagement absent this public component risks sending the wrong impression and further emboldening this already dangerous regime. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002 to 2006, he was the Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestinian affairs adviser in the office of the secretary of defense. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Expert: "Iran's Nuclear Capability Is Preventable" - Ruthie Blum
    Uzi Arad, former director of intelligence of the Mossad and director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, which next week hosts the Herzliya Conference on Israel's Balance of National Security, said in an interview this week:
    Q: Isn't the dispute in the region more ideological than territorial?
    Arad: "The ideological component - specifically, the visceral hostility toward Israel that varies only in degree among Arabs and Muslims - remains a problem....Therefore, to reduce the issue to its territorial aspects alone would be superficial....When addressing the territorial aspects, I believe that Israel should not be defeatist and accept all territorial demands, but rather should insist on compromises that satisfy its security needs; its own ideological and historical positions or values; and other national interests."
    Q: What's your take on the Iranian issue?
    Arad: "I personally believe that Iran's nuclear capability is preventable....I, personally, am optimistic, in the sense that if we - meaning the United States and we its allies - do all we are capable of doing, Iran can certainly be prevented from becoming nuclear. One should not consider it an inevitability. But the big 'if' is if there's the leadership, the political will, the savvy, the statecraft, the perseverance, the military creativity and the will to use all legitimate instruments of persuasion." (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Arab World's Political Dilemma: Between Islamic "Resistance" and the Western State System - Pinhas Inbari
    What type of political system does the Arab world want to have? Normal statehood, or a belligerent "resistance" in which the state is only a platform to provide infrastructure and services to the "resistance." This is an inter-Arab decision, and neither Israel nor the international community can make this decision for the Arabs. There are currently three active "resistances" in the Arab world: the Iraqi "resistance," Hizbullah, and the Palestinian "resistance." If successful, they may serve as the model all across the Arab world. If they fail, this may help to advance the alternative model of normality and push back the Iranian drive. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Is Terrorism Infinite? - Stephen Schwartz
    Some observers claim that Islamist extremists are impossible to defeat because they desire death and will not stray from their violent path. But there are cases in which terrorism was defeated. The Irish Republican Army was convinced to give up terrorist activity. Before it, violent radicals including the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Army Faction, and the Japanese Red Army vanished from the political landscape. Above all, terrorism is always dependent on extensive, external financial support. It is a principle of war enunciated by the great German strategist Clausewitz that "irregular," "insurgent" combat - of which terrorism is a subset - cannot survive without foreign help. Terrorism is not unbeatable. It will be beaten by arms, by psychology, and by cutting off their foreign support. (Family Security Foundation)

    Weekend Features

  • The China-Israel Connection - Neal Sandler
    Israel-China trade climbed nearly 30% in 2006, to $3.8 billion, and is expected to reach $5 billion this year, catapulting China to the position of Israel's No. 2 trading partner, second only to the U.S. The China trade figures exclude business with Hong Kong, even though much of it is redirected to the mainland. The numbers also would be higher if Israel's lucrative arms sales to China hadn't come to an abrupt end in 2005 under heavy pressure from the Bush administration. Fortunately for Israel, the Chinese are interested in more than just military hardware. Hundreds of Israeli high-tech, chemical, and agricultural technology companies have seen exports to China soar. (Business Week)
  • Israel Antiquities Authority Reveals New Finds at Western Wall Plaza - Etgar Lefkovits
    An immense bedrock cliff uncovered opposite Jerusalem's Temple Mount may help explain why it took the Romans so long to capture what is now known as the Jewish Quarter almost two millennia ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday. The cliff, uncovered during a year-long excavation at the western edge of the Western Wall Plaza, was one of several important finds that include the remains of a colonnaded street called the Eastern Cardo, paved in the Roman manner with large flagstones set in place diagonally; a section of the Lower Aqueduct that conveyed water from Solomon's Pools to the Temple Mount; and a rock-hewn and plastered Jewish mikve (ritual bath) that dates back to the Second Temple period. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Yuri Shtern: The Passionate Activist - Yuli Edelstein
    MK Yuri Shtern, 58, who died on Tuesday, had two great passions in public life - the Land of Israel and aliya. I knew Yuri from the late '70s in Moscow, where we both taught Hebrew. Yuri and I joined forces with Natan Sharansky and other MKs in 1996 to form the Israel B'Aliya party.
        The policies Yuri worked on speak for themselves. His issues had more than political significance - they had social and public importance, as well. He really sought to introduce change, and he was effective. Yuri had dazzling knowledge in the fields he worked, and often was sought out for advice from other MKs. Yuri was a humanist; he was adamant about helping victims of terror, Holocaust survivors and veterans. Yuri also headed up the Christian Allies Caucus, which rallies support for Israel. His passing is a loss for all of Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Threat Assessment: In the Middle East an Emboldened Iran
    - John D. Negroponte (Director of National Intelligence)

    Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, January 18, 2007

    • In the Middle East, Iran and its neighbors see a strategic shift: Iran's influence is rising in ways that go beyond the menace of its nuclear program. The fall of the Taliban and Saddam, increased oil revenues, Hamas' electoral victory, and Hizbullah's perceived recent success in fighting against Israel all extend Iran's shadow in the region. Our Arab allies fear Iran's increasing influence, are concerned about worsening tensions between Shia and Sunni Islam, and face heightened domestic criticism for maintaining their decades-old strategic partnerships with Washington.
    • Iran's growing influence has coincided with a generational change in Tehran's leadership. Iranian President Ahmadinejad's administration - staffed in large part by second-generation hardliners imbued with revolutionary ideology and deeply distrustful of the U.S. - has stepped up the use of more assertive and offensive tactics to achieve Iran's longstanding goals.
    • However, Ahmadinejad's supporters suffered setbacks in the recent Assembly of Experts and local council elections. Moreover, ethnic tensions in Iran's Baloch, Kurdish, and, to a lesser extent, Arab and Azeri areas continue to fester, creating concern in Tehran about the potential for broader ethnic unrest to generate large-scale anti-regime activity. While record oil revenues and manageable debt suggest that Iran is capable, for now, of weathering shocks to the economy, inflationary pressures, exacerbated by Ahmadinejad's expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, are harming Iran's consumer and investment climates and causing employment opportunities to decline.
    • We assess that Iran regards its ability to conduct terrorist operations abroad as a key element of its national security strategy: it considers this capability as helping to safeguard the regime by deterring U.S. or Israeli attacks, distracting and weakening Israel, enhancing Iran's regional influence through intimidation, and helping to drive the U.S. from the region.
    • At the center of Iran's terrorism strategy is Lebanese Hizbullah, which relies on Tehran for a substantial portion of its annual budget, military equipment, and specialized training. Hizbullah is focused on its agenda in Lebanon and supporting anti-Israeli Palestinian terrorists, but it has in the past made contingency plans to conduct attacks against U.S. interests in the event it feels its survival - or that of Iran - is threatened.
    • Syria has strengthened ties with Iran and grown more confident about its regional policies, largely due to what it sees as vindication of its support to Hizbullah and Hamas and its perceptions of its success in overcoming international attempts to isolate the regime. Damascus has failed to crack down consistently on militant infiltration into Iraq and continues to meddle in Lebanon. Lebanon remains in a politically dangerous situation as Damascus, Hizbullah, and other pro-Syrian groups attempt to topple the government of Prime Minister Siniora.

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