News Brief

An Israeli court convicted Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian official, of murder. Thursday’s verdict at Tel Aviv District Court found Barghouti guilty in connection with three shooting ambushes by the Al-Aksa Brigade in which five people were killed, as well as a botched suicide bombing. But the Fatah leader was acquitted on 21 other counts of murder for lack of evidence.

Israeli troops killed at least eight Palestinians on the third day of a raid in the Gaza Strip. At least three of Thursday’s fatalities were gunmen shot while attacking Israeli troops, who tightened their grip on Rafah, a refugee camp in southern Gaza. More than 40 Palestinians have been killed during the operation, including at least 10 when Israel fired into a crowd of protesters Wednesday.

Four Israeli groups petitioned the High Court of Justice on alleged human rights violations during army operations in Gaza. The human rights organizations on Thursday submitted a list of demands they asked the court to impose on the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian youth was killed in West Bank protests that erupted over Israel’s raid in a Gaza Strip refugee camp. Witnesses said Israeli forces fired on rock-throwers south of Hebron on Thursday, killing a 13-year-old boy. In Kalkilya, Israeli commandos killed a Hamas fugitive in a shootout.

Yad Vashem protested an Austrian newspaper cartoon that compared an Israeli solder to a Nazi. One panel of the cartoon, which appeared Wednesday in Kleine Zeitung, shows a Nazi soldier glaring at a Jewish child. In the second panel, the same man, this time dressed as an Israeli soldier, is shown glaring at a Palestinian child.

Jewish supporters of John Kerry launched a Web site. JewsforKerry.org, which is not affiliated with the presidential campaign of the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, will host content and discussion forums. It seeks to make the Jewish case for a Kerry administration.

The European Union strongly condemned Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. In a statement on behalf of the E.U.’s president, Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen described Israeli actions as “completely disproportionate to any threat faced by the Israeli military and that Israeli forces showed a reckless disregard for human life.”

Support is growing for a reference to Christianity in a new European Union Constitution. Several of the E.U.’s new members, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia and Malta, are backing the move and signed a letter this week addressed to the E.U. president requesting the inclusion of a Christian reference in the constitution.

The American Jewish Congress praised a settlement that allows a U.S. Muslim student to wear a head-covering. Jewish public school students benefit because the settlement protects their religious freedom as well, AJCongress President Paul Miller said in a statement Wednesday.

Palestinians tried to kidnap a New York Times correspondent. James Bennet, the Times’ bureau chief for Israel, said he was speaking on a cell phone in front of a hospital in the Gaza Strip refugee camp of Rafah on Wednesday when a Palestinian came up to him, said hello and offered his hand.

All Muslims younger than 45 will be prevented from praying at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount for midday prayers on Friday. The restrictions come after Israeli police cited intelligence alerts about likely Palestinian disturbances at the Al-Aksa mosque, on the Temple Mount, after prayers Friday.

A Polish student association held four days of activities to mark Israeli Independence Day. The May 14-17 events, which included a lecture on Hebrew, lessons about the Hebrew alphabet and an exhibition of Israeli art, were sponsored by Gesher, an association for Polish-Israeli dialogue made up of students from the Jewish Studies department of Krakow’s Jagiellonian University.

The vice president of Israel’s diamond exchange was released after seven months’ detention in Hungary. Avraham Traub, who returned to Israel over the weekend, traveled to Budapest last October and was arrested by Hungarian authorities pursuant to a request from Interpol.

A Palestinian gang accused of killing an Arab jogger mistaken for a Jew planned to go on a shooting spree in Jerusalem. Jerusalem District Court on Thursday indicted two Palestinian youths from the city and one from Ramallah for the March drive-by shooting of George Khouri.

Madonna reportedly canceled a scheduled appearance in Israel. MSNBC reported that the pop star and Kabbalah devotee was canceling her summer concert in Israel because of violence.

Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-S.C.) defended his statement that President Bush went to war in Iraq because of U.S. Jews and Israel. In a column that ran in three local newspapers earlier this month, Hollings said Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom “to secure Israel” and thus “take the Jewish vote from the Democrats.”

Slovak Jews protested a decision by Slovak Television not to broadcast a documentary in a pogrom against Jews. Television representatives said “Love Your Neighbor” was pulled Monday because it includes racist and anti-Semitic comments, which violate Slovak law. Jewish leaders described the public broadcaster’s decision as “censorship,” arguing that the comments are proof that anti-Semitism still exists in Slovakia.

An Orthodox Zionist institution in Israel celebrated its 20th anniversary. Thursday’s celebration of Ohr Torah Stone was attended by 3,000 people. Founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, the organization has launched many innovative programs.

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