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>PD
>Israel Faxx
>JN April 2, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 59

Israeli Municipal Workers Strike

By VOA News

Municipal workers in Israel went on strike Sunday, pledging not to pick up garbage or provide social services until the government agrees to their financial demands.

Some 100,000 workers walked off the job in 250 municipalities at dawn to enforce demands for a 3 percent salary increase. In ordering the walkout, the union ignored warnings from police that piles of uncollected garbage left on the streets could be used by terrorists as hiding places for bombs.


Israelis, Palestinians Bury Children Killed in Clashes

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel arrested six members of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's elite Force 17 guard Sunday, as mourners from both sides buried children killed in the conflict. Tensions are mounting after the worst single week in six months of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

There were exchanges of gunfire in the West Bank town of Hebron after Jewish settlers marched to an ancient cemetery for the burial of Shalhevet Pas, a 10-month-old baby killed by a Palestinian sniper one week ago. She is the youngest victim of the violent clashes that since last October have killed more than 450 people, nearly all of them Palestinians.

Shalhevet's parents had originally refused to bury the child until Israeli forces recaptured the Palestinian-controlled hill in the town from where the fatal shot was fired.

But despite the refusal of the Israeli army to accede to this request, the funeral went ahead at the urging of religious leaders who said the burial had to be held without further delay to fulfill Jewish law.

During the funeral procession of approximately 3,000 Jewish settlers and their supporters, some Israeli youths hurled rocks and broke windows of homes of Palestinian residents.

Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior eulogized the murdered baby: "From this holy place, we call to the Government of Israel and he who stands at its helm: The girl Shalhevet [flame], who ignited the fire, who lit the torch of strength and heroism, felt free to toddle around here without fear. The government, too, must also gird itself with strength and wipe out the terrorism once and for all." After the burial, Palestinian snipers again fired from the hill known as Abu Sneneih overlooking a Jewish neighborhood. Israeli soldiers returned fire.

Hebron is home to more than 400 Jewish settlers, who live in the center of the town, surrounded by more than 100,000 Palestinians. Israeli troops are permanently stationed in Hebron to protect the Jewish population.

Palestinians also buried their dead, including an 11-year-old boy who died Sunday from wounds suffered earlier. They have vowed to continue their struggle until they have an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, insists there can be no return to negotiations about a Palestinian homeland until the violence ends.

Israel's army raided a roadblock and arrested six members of Arafat's presidential guard, known as Force 17. Last week, Israeli helicopters attacked Force 17 headquarters in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The government claims the Palestinian unit has been behind a series of attacks against Israeli citizens.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has warned he is ready to take stronger actions to stop the six-month Palestinian uprising. Palestinian militant groups have called for more attacks against Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres travels this week to Sweden which currently holds the rotating European Union presidency. Israeli radio says he will repeat Israel's opposition to the proposed deployment of international observers to Palestinian areas.


Iraq-Syria Trade Pact Takes Effect

By VOA News

Iraq's government says a free-trade agreement it signed with Syria earlier this year has taken effect. Iraq signed the free-trade pact with Syria in January, despite being under continuing international sanctions.

Estimated trade volume between the two countries could reach $1 billion this year, up from $500 million. Syria says the trade falls within the limited exchanges permitted by the United Nations.

Iraq and Syria broke off diplomatic ties in 1980 when Damascus supported Tehran in the Iran-Iraq war. Ties have been improving since 1997. Baghdad has also signed recent free trade agreements with Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia.



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