News in Brief

The Israel Antiquities Authority has decided to dig a tunnel under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, close to the Temple Mount. Two weeks ago, the IAA denied such a decision had been made. The tunnel will connect those under the Temple Mount and the site of Ohel Yitzhak, some 150 meters from the Temple Mount wall. The decision to begin the dig was taken in spite the fact that no plan was filed to the planning authorities. Moreover, the Palestinians under whose homes the tunnel will pass were not consulted, even though the law grants them ownership over the territory under their property. (Meron Rapoport)

A hostel for troubled youths in Hadera will not be closed as planned, Welfare Ministry officials decided, fearing a confrontation with the youths living there. Nofit, a hostel serving as alternative housing for jailed youths, was scheduled for closure after living conditions there were deemed to be poor. Protests by some of the youths and their parents led the welfare authorities to decide to allow them to stay at the hostel for the remainder of the period the court ruled, but would stop sending new residents. The welfare authorities also said that they would step up supervision of the hostel.(Ruth Sinai)

Serial rapist Benny Sela has once again been charged with committing an indecent act in front of a female prison guard. A guard yesterday filed a complaint with the Tiberias police, saying Sela exposed himself and committed an indecent act. The alleged offense occurred in the holding cell at the Tiberias Magistrate's Court while the guard was accompanying Sela, who was going to court in an unrelated civil suit he had filed. Sela was sentenced to 35 years for 13 crimes of rape and indecent acts. In 2004 he exposed himself to a female guard at the Nitzan Prison, and in 2005 he committed an indecent act in front of a social-work student interviewing him. (Eli Ashkenazi)

The cabinet rejected for now a demand by National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer to shut down immediately the Pi Glilot fuel and natural gas depot in Ramat Hasharon. The cabinet decided to abide by a court decision that ordered the evacuation of the site within two years. As to protecting and burying the fuel storage tanks, the cabinet decided to pass the matter on to an inter-ministerial team including representatives of the Infrastructures and Environment ministries, as well as the Shin Bet, police, fire department and Ramat Hasharon municipality. The cabinet did order the immediate removal of emergency fuel stores to alternate locations. (Amiram Cohen)

The Israel Prize in Talmud will be awarded this year to Professor David Weiss Halivni, 81, a Holocaust survivor who teaches at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University. The prize committee noted that Prof. Halivni paved a new path in talmudic research in past decades, and that his life symbolizes the survival and rebirth of traditional European Jewry. The Ukrainian-born Halivni was a professor at Columbia University in New York, after having taught for many years at the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary. He made aliyah in 2005, and lives in Jerusalem. (Or Kashti)

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday asking him for urgent state aid for the "growing distress, on the verge of becoming a humanitarian crisis," of the city's growing African refugee population. Over the past year, many refugees, mostly from Eritrea, Sudan, Darfur and the Ivory Coast, have reached the city. There are now about 2,000 such refugees, 700 of whom arrived recently. According to Huldai, the city has provided a number of bomb shelters to house them, as well as basic needs such as mattresses, blankets, drugs and education; but conditions in the temporary shelters are difficult and the city can no longer manage alone. (Yigal Hai)