Morning Report: April 17, 2005

Three held in plot to kill Shas leader. Three Israeli Arabs have been arrested on charges of conspiring to assassinate Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Israel's religious Shas Party and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. Arutz Sheva: 'It was released for publication that the General Security Service (GSS) arrested three Israeli Arabs on suspicion that they were planning to assassinate former Sephardic Chief Rabbi and spiritual leader of the Shas party Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The three, residents of northern Jerusalem, are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group. It is suspected that aside from the plan to murder the rabbi, they were planning other terror attacks in the capital as well.' Debka: 'Shin Beit is holding three PFLP members from E. Jerusalem in plot to murder ultra-religious Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Two still under questioning. Same terror group assassinated Israeli tourism minister Zeevi three years ago.' Jerusalem Post: 'Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who established a cell in northern Jerusalem and planned to assassinate Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef while leaving his Jerusalem home, as well as other attacks in the capital, were recently arrested by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police. In January cell members studied the route leading to and from Yosef's home, the security arrangements and monitored his movements. Their arrests prevented them from carrying out the attacks. Details released by the Shin Bet on Sunday revealed that the cell members are all residents of neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem, received funds and instructions from a senior PFLP member in Jerusalem and maintained close contacts with PFLP members incarcerated in Jericho for their involvement in the assassination of former government minister Rehavam Ze'evi. The identities of three of the members revealed by security officials are Salah Hassan Hamori, 20; of Dahiat Al Barid in north Jerusalem is the holder of a Jerusalem identity card and French citizenship. Hamori was incarcerated in the past for PFLP activities. Matsem Dieb Sheikh, 25, of Anata and Mussa Darwish, 22, also the holder of a Jerusalem identity card lived in Issawiyah. ... ' Further details in Jerusalem Post article at the link. (A7, Debka, JPost)

State hiring Iran freedom activists? Regime Change Iran reports that the US Department of State is soliciting applications for grants to promote human rights and democratization initiatives in Iran. The State Department website announces: 'The Office for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL/PHD) announces an open competition for assistance awards. DRL seeks to provide grants to educational institutions, humanitarian groups, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals inside Iran to support the advancement of democracy and human rights. Due to current sanctions on Iran, United States Government funds may not be used for activities involving the Government of Iran. Organizations may submit grant proposals that focus on promotion of democracy and human rights in Iran. While this RFP does not solicit proposals targeting concerns in other countries, DRL will consider proposals that include other countries when 1) for security or other reasons it is necessary to invite Iranians to neighboring countries, or 2) exposure of Iranians to individuals or groups in other countries is of direct benefit to Iranians. In this later regard, while DRL prefers new program ideas, the Bureau would consider ideas to expand current successful human rights and democracy programs to include Iranians.' (State Dept. via RCI)

Ethnic Arabs clash with Iranian security forces in Ahwaz, Iran. From Iran Focus, via Free Iran: 'Tehran, Apr. 16 - Anti-government protests erupted yesterday through the night in the city of Ahwaz, southwest Khuzestan province in Iran, leaving at least six people dead and hundreds injured or arrested. Ahwaz, close to the Iraqi border, is a major hub of Iranian ethnic minority groups, and its largely Arab population has faced brutal repression undere clerical rule. Fierce fighting occurred when Iran’s State Security Forces were dispatched to quell angry residents who were complaining of government plans to redefine the ethnic make-up of the province. Some 3,000 residents gathered in Kurdvani Square on Friday morning and thousands more in Sheling-Abad, Malashiya, Ameri, and Kut Abdollah districts of the city of Ahwaz, demanding the authorities stop what they called “ethnic cleansing”.' (Iran Focus via Free Iran)