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News Brief

May 18, 2004
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Israeli forces killed six Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Troops patrolling a security corridor near the Rafah refugee camp, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, shot dead three Palestinians who had planted a bomb before dawn Monday.

Republican and Democratic leaders said they would seek Congress’ support for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the Republican leader, said they also would seek support for assurances that President Bush gave Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

Some Palestinians fled a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip as Israel continued counterterrorist operations there. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the European Union condemned Israel’s actions in Rafah, which include home demolitions.

Colin Powell criticized the mild Arab reaction to the beheading of Nicholas Berg. Interviewed from Jordan, the U.S. secretary of state said the Arabs’ condemnation of the killing of Berg, an American Jew, fell far short of their attacks on the United States for mistreatment of Iraqi detainees at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib Prison.

Tevi Troy, the White House’s Jewish liaison since 2003, is leaving to work on the Bush-Cheney campaign. He will be replaced by Noam Neusner. Troy, 37, has worked at the White House since 2002.

Israel and Jordan signed a free-trade agreement. The accord signed Sunday, which was agreed to at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month, eliminates tariffs on thousands of goods.

Israel purposefully understaffs its offices where Palestinians must apply for travel permits, human rights groups charged. There are only 16 clerks working on permits at army liaison offices where more than 2 million Palestinians must apply to enter Israel or travel within the West Bank.

Israel’s Knesset raised the country’s electoral threshold from 1.5 percent to 2 percent. The measure was approved Monday by a vote of 67-17. The measure is intended to prevent small political parties from wielding disproportionate power in government coalitions.

The man who killed Yitzhak Rabin said he does not regret his actions. On Monday, speaking before a court appearance regarding his request to get married, Yigal Amir said his 1995 assassination of the Israeli prime minister saved the Jewish people.

Fervently Orthodox women in Brooklyn burned wigs after rabbis said the wigs’ hairs had been used in idolatrous ceremonies. Sunday’s wig-burning in Williamsburg, a heavily Jewish neighborhood, follows similar burnings of natural Hindu-hair wigs elsewhere in New York and Israel.

An anti-hate rally in France drew disappointingly small numbers. Sunday’s demonstration, called by the leading anti-racist group, SOS Racisme, and officially supported by France’s Jewish communal organizations and its mainstream political parties, drew 10,000 marchers, according to police estimates.

The father of an American Jew beheaded in Iraq said Donald Rumsfeld should resign. In an interview with Israel Army Radio broadcast Monday, Michael Berg said he holds the U.S. secretary of defense responsible for the death of his son, Nicholas, and called for his resignation.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) urged pro-Israel lobbyists to push for the U.S. Embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem. Speaking Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, Lieberman called the embassy move “unfinished business.”

The CBC admitted it committed an “editorial lapse” by suggesting in a news report that Israel influenced the U.S. military to abuse Iraqi prisoners. However, the CBC’s editor in chief, Tony Burman, denied that Canada’s publicly funded broadcaster has an anti-Israel bias, as some allege. “This wasn’t a case of willful distortion,” Burman said in a statement. “Instead, it was due to editorial lapses that somehow slipped through the system.”

A verdict in Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti’s murder trial is due Thursday. If convicted by Tel Aviv District Court, Barghouti, a leading deputy to Yasser Arafat, can expect life in prison for terrorist attacks by Fatah’s Al-Aksa Brigade that claimed 26 lives.

Israeli police tried to evacuate an illegal West Bank outpost, scuffling with hundreds of settlers. The move Monday to evacuate Mitzpeh Yitzhar came after the High Court of Justice rejected petitions filed by pro-settler movements and required that they pay some $1,200 in the state’s legal costs.

A convert to Islam went on trial for planning to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Australia. Prosecutors in Perth said Monday that Jack Roche, 50, met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in March 2000 and was told to form an Al-Qaida cell in Australia.

Israel jailed a Palestinian bomb maker for 735 years. Anes Jaradat, who confessed to rigging car bombs used in Islamic Jihad attacks that killed 31 people, was sentenced by Salem Military Court on Monday to consecutive life terms for each victim.

An Israeli Arab was arrested on suspicion of helping Hamas plan attacks. The Shin Bet security service said Monday that Basil Mahajane, a resident of Umm el-Fahm, was arrested last month.

Ashes of Auschwitz victims were buried in an Australian Jewish cemetery. The ashes, buried over the weekend at Melbourne’s Springvale Jewish Cemetery, were taken from Auschwitz in the late 1980s and had been kept in the Melbourne Holocaust Center.

About 1,000 Czech citizens attended a ceremony Sunday to commemorate Jews imprisoned at Terezin. The ceremony, which also commemorated freedom fighters who were held at the small fortress also known as Theresienstadt, recalled the camp’s liberation by the Red Army in the first week of May 1945.

Researchers will be able to study hundreds of years of Czech Jewish history following the completion of an archive in a Prague synagogue. Prague’s Jewish museum recently completed a $2.2 million renovation and reconstruction of Smichov Synagogue, which was used by the Nazis as a warehouse for storing confiscated Jewish property before it fell into disrepair during the Communist era.

An Israeli won a championship in judo, burnishing his credentials for the upcoming Olympic games. Arik Ze’evi defended his European Championship in the under-100-kilogram division on Sunday with a victory over former gold medalist Antal Kovacs, of Hungary.

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