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>Israel Faxx
>JN April 6, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 63

Palestinians Fire Shells Into Israel

By VOA News

Palestinians fired mortar shells into Israeli territory late Thursday as violence in the region continued to escalate. The shells landed near Netiv Haasara, a Jewish village close to the border of the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported.

Earlier in the day, the two sides traded charges over who fired first in a shooting incident involving a convoy of Palestinian security officials. The incident happened overnight at the Erez crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip, as the Palestinians returned from talks with Israel about reducing violence. Three Palestinians were injured in the incident. A clash between Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing youths in Gaza also killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy.

Meanwhile, Palestinians denounced an Israeli government plan to build 700 new houses for Jewish settlers in the West Bank settlements of Maale Adumim and Alfei Menashe. The European Union said all settlement activities are illegal and constitute an obstacle to peace, while the United States called the move provocative and inflammatory.

Explosion Kills Palestinian Activist

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

A member of the militant Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad, was killed Thursday when a booby-trap in a public telephone booth he was standing in exploded. Officials of the organization blamed Israel for his death and vowed to retaliate. The Israeli army said it was still checking the facts about the case.

Iyad al-Hardan, 25, had gone to use the telephone after leaving his cell in a Palestinian prison in the West Bank town of Jenin. He died when a bomb in the public phone booth exploded killing him, and reportedly startling Palestinian guards who had been preparing to escort him back to jail. Some Palestinian officials have blamed the explosion on Israel, calling it an assassination.

Israel had accused Hardan of masterminding several bombings, including the 1998 bombing of Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda outdoor market. He is the second member of the Islamic Jihad to be killed this week. Another activist was slain in an Israeli helicopter attack Monday in the Gaza Strip.

The Islamic Jihad is opposed to any peace negotiations with Israel and in recent years has been behind a campaign of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, in the Jewish state.

Israeli Soldiers Accused of Firing on Palestinian Convoy

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli soldiers fired on a convoy carrying three top Palestinian security officials back to Gaza from talks near Tel Aviv. The incident threatens to undermine tentative efforts between the two sides to reduce the level of violence and resume peace negotiations.

Palestinian officials said they were deliberately targeted, but the Israeli army rejected this allegation. It said the soldiers at the Erez border crossing at Gaza thought they heard gunfire coming from a jeep in the convoy.

The Palestinian officials had been returning from a meeting with their Israeli counterparts at the home of U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk near Tel Aviv. A CIA representative was also present and it was agreed another meeting would be held next week.

Israeli army spokesman Lt. Olivier Rafowicz said a preliminary investigation found that the soldiers had been fired upon from a jeep in the Palestinian convoy. He said that it was absurd to suggest Israel would deliberately target Palestinian security officials after a high-level meeting.

American Jews Follow European Passover Tradition

By Andrew J. Baroch (VOA-Washington)

Pesach, Passover in English, which begins at sundown Saturday, is an eight-day Jewish festival commemorating the Exodus of Israelites from Egypt after their liberation from slavery more than 3,000 years ago.

The Passover seder is rich with symbolism The story of the Exodus is told at the seder, a ceremonial dinner for family and friends. Seder is a Hebrew word for sequence or order, and it refers to the traditional sequence of events in the evening-long ritual, such as sampling matzah [unleavened bread] and morar, a very bitter kind of horseradish. Both symbolize the slavery of the ancient Israelites.

Participants at a seder traditionally read the Haggadah, which is the Hebrew word for "narrative." The Haggadah, which retells the story of the Exodus from Egypt, was first used more than 2,000 years ago.

Michael Feldberg, the executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society in New York City, said Jewish immigrants from Spain introduced the seder ritual to North America in the 1620s and that later European immigration kept the tradition alive.

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