News Brief

Israeli soldiers killed at least 12 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Witnesses said the casualties came Thursday as helicopter gunships fired missiles into crowds in Rafah, a refugee camp on Gaza’s border with Egypt.

Democrats are calling on Vice President Dick Cheney to condemn anti-Zionist comments by Saudi Arabia. Cheney on Friday will address the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, Fla. Democratic supporters of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) are calling on Cheney to discuss the Bush administration’s ties to Saudi Arabia, noting that country’s support for terrorist organizations and its influence over U.S. oil prices.

The Federal Election Commission rejected rule changes that U.S. Jewish groups said would have restricted their activism. The FEC voted 4-2 to reject changes that would redefine as a political committee any group that supported or opposed a candidate’s policies.

U.S. agencies fought deportations of alleged Nazi sympathizers to help fight the Cold War, according to newly released archives. The U.S. government believed Nazi sympathizers might help counter pro-Communist tendencies, according to “U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis,” a new book based on material in the National Archives in Washington.

The Orthodox Union praised the Senate for passing a bill that provides special education funding for people with disabilities. The group said it worked with lawmakers to include provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for funding for disabled students in nonpublic schools, such as Jewish day schools.

The United States is willing to pursue a dialogue with Syria despite the recent imposition of sanctions. President Bush imposed the mostly symbolic sanctions this week limiting trade and flights with Syria until it cracks down on terrorists, reveals its weapons programs, secures its border with Iraq and takes step to leave Lebanon.

Anti-Semitic crimes in Germany are down, but physical attacks on Jews are up. The government announced Thursday that there were 1,300 anti-Semitic crimes in 2003, down 20 percent from the previous year. But the number of violent attacks against Jews rose from 28 to 35, including 12 incidents in Berlin.

The U.N. agency that works with Palestinian refugees asked that its ambulances and staff not be abused. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, made the call after Palestinian militants threatened the lives of an UNRWA ambulance team Tuesday in Gaza City.

A letter by President Bush to Ahmed Qurei “may go a long way” toward assuaging Palestinian ire over Bush’s assurances to Israel, Hanan Ashrawi said. The Palestinian legislator told JTA she had not read the three-page letter to the Palestinian Authority prime minister but was apprised of its contents by Qurei and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Three bereaved Israeli fathers called for tougher military action against the Palestinians. Baruch Ben-Yosef, Moshe Keinan and Zecharia Kommemi, all of whom lost sons in Israeli-Palestinian fighting, demonstrated Thursday in front of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem demanding that the military get tough on terrorist bases in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ariel Sharon thanked Egypt for helping to secure the return of the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza. Sharon’s office said Thursday that the Israeli prime minister had telephoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to express thanks for the pressure Egypt’s government applied on Palestinian terrorist groups to return the body parts.

At least nine Jewish tycoons made a list of 36 Russian billionaires published by the Russian edition of Forbes magazine. Heading the Forbes ranking are three Jewish oil magnates, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Roman Abramovich and Viktor Vekselberg.

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