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>JN April 25, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 71

Iran Says Israel Understands Combat, Not Dialogue

By VOA News

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Iran's supreme leader has called for stepped-up armed struggle against Israel, rejecting dialogue to resolve the conflict in the Middle East. Khamenei spoke Tuesday in Tehran at the opening of a two-day conference aimed at boosting support for the Palestinian uprising.

The Iranian leader declared that supporting the Palestinian people in their fight against Israeli occupation is one of the important duties of all Muslims.

Khamenei claimed that Zionists exaggerated the size of the Holocaust to win sympathy for a Jewish state. He said that Zionists worked closely with the Nazis during World War II to fabricate statistics on the number of Jews who were killed.

Historians agree that the Nazis killed around six million European Jews between 1940 and 1945. The catastrophe led to mass Jewish immigration after the war to what was then British-ruled Palestine.

The Tehran conference has brought together delegates from more than 30 Arab and Islamic countries along with hard-core anti-Israel groups including Hizbullah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Hizbullah head Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Islamic countries should give practical assistance to the Palestinians, saying it was the Arab world's fate to battle the Jewish state. He said Israel should expect more attacks from Palestinian militant groups.

The United States blasted comments made by Iran's supreme leader concerning the Holocaust at a pro-Palestinian international conference. The U.S. State Department denounced as "outrageous" and "deplorable" a statement by Ayatollah Ali Khameini that Zionists exaggerated the size of the Holocaust to win sympathy for a Jewish state.


Violence Mars Israeli, Palestinian Efforts at Security

By VOA News

Violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continued Tuesday despite progress toward restoring security between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians in two separate incidents.

The Israeli army said soldiers shot 40-year-old Youssef Abu Hamda after he tried to cross the border into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. Later, 24-year-old Ira al-Hirish was shot during a clash between Israeli troops and stonethrowing Palestinians in the West Bank town of Qalqilya. Also, Palestinians fired three mortar shells on a Jewish settlement in southern Gaza. No injuries were reported.

Monday night, Israel promised to increase access to Palestinian towns and villages in return for greater Palestinian efforts to prevent attacks on Israelis.


Israel Imposes Tighter Blockade on Palestinians

By VOA News

Israel has imposed a tighter blockade on Palestinian territories over fears of violence during independence celebrations by the Jewish state. The security measures were announced late Tuesday as Israel launched its Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. Israel's army said measures that include sealing off Palestinian towns and closing down border crossings would continue until early Friday.

Celebrations for Israel's 53rd independence anniversary end late Thursday. Israel has sealed off Palestinian areas with varying degrees of intensity in recent months.

Despite Israeli-Palestinian violence that killed two Palestinians on Tuesday, the United States said it believes the two sides are seriously "exploring" ways to end the seven-month cycle of deadly clashes. However, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quoted Tuesday of accusing Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat of being directly behind the Palestinian uprising.

Meanwhile, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat accused Israel of trying to sabotage a Jordanian-Egyptian security proposal, after Israeli officials said they wanted modifications.

Monday night, Israel promised to lift its blockade on the West Bank town of Jericho in the coming days following overnight security talks mediated by the United States. Jericho's important tourist industry, which used to attract many Israelis, has been devastated by the Israeli blockade.


Memorial Day Tonight, Followed By Independence Day

By Arutz-7 News

Tuesday night's official ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem marked the onset of Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers. A minute-long siren was sounded throughout the country last night, and a two-minute siren will be heard Wednesday morning.

Some 9,312 soldiers have fallen since the War of Independence. Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit 42 military cemeteries around the country before Independence Day festivities begin Wednesday evening.

The population of Israel on Independence Day Eve 2001 is 6.4 million people. 81%, or 5.2 million, of these are Jews, including 200,000 new immigrants who are not recognized as Jews in the population registry. This proportion of 81% is practically the same as it was when the State was established in 1948.

On average, 360 babies were born in Israel, and 150 new immigrants arrived, every day in the year that passed. The population grew by 2.4%, less than last year but still significantly higher than in developed countries. Two-thirds of Israelis were born in Israel.


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