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>Israel Faxx
>JN May 8, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 79

Baby Girl Becomes Youngest Victim of Mideast Violence

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

A four-month-old Palestinian baby has become the youngest victim of the latest violence between Palestinian militants and Israeli security forces.

Four-month-old Iman Hajjo died after Israeli forces shelled the Palestinian area of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. Her mother was also injured, along with several other Palestinians.

An Israeli military spokesman said that the shelling of the area was in response to Palestinian mortar fire on a nearby Jewish settlement in Gaza.


Israel Seizes Weapons Ship

By VOA News & Israel Faxx Staff

The Israeli navy said it intercepted a shipload of weapons bound for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israeli television said the fishing boat set out from northern Lebanon, carrying mortars, hand-held anti-aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, bombs and ammunition.

Overnight Sunday, Israeli ships seized the vessel, south of the Lebanese border. Israel made the disclosure shortly after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accused the Palestinian Authority of trying to smuggle in weapons that it is prohibited from having under peace accords.

Aboard the ship, the navy found four anti-aircraft Strella missiles, rocket propelled grenades, and an assortment of other weapons including mortar shells, 120 anti-tank missile launchers, Katyusha rockets capable of reaching a distance five miles away and Kalashnikov rifles with 13,000 bullets.

At a Monday evening news conference, Maj. Gen. Yedidia Ya'ari said that the ship was sent by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is headed by Ahmed Jibril.

Ya'ari said the weapons would have brought the violence in the West Bank and Gaza to a new level. "[The weapons] will change the situation in the balance of power in our battle with the Palestinians."

Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer added that he could not rule out the possibility that weapons of this nature had not already arrived in, or been smuggled into, the Palestinian territories. There were also fears that the Katyusha rockets were capable of hitting major population centers within Israel.


Pope Prays in Golan Heights

By VOA News

Pope John Paul II prayed for Middle East peace in the ruins of the Syrian town of Quneitra, which was destroyed by Israel in 1967.

Kneeling in a gutted Greek Orthodox church Monday, the Roman Catholic leader said the Golan Heights ghost town remains so disfigured by war that he wished to pray for peace and for the followers of all religions.

Throngs of Syrians greeted the frail, 80 year-old pontiff in Quneitra, a town Israel captured in 1967 and gave back in ruins as part of a U.S.-brokered agreement seven years later. Syria has promised never to rebuild the town, saying its rubble should stand as a monument to Israeli aggression.

The contested Golan Heights, which Israel says was used to shell villages inside the Jewish state, remains a major block to a peace deal between Israel and Syria. Israel has annexed most of the region, although some of it remains under Syrian control.

Pope John Paul's visit to Syria is the second stop of his six-day pilgrimage retracing the biblical steps of the apostle Paul. The Pope's trip began in Greece and will end later this week in Malta.


U.S. Calls Assad's Remarks on Israel 'Unacceptable'

By Nick Simeone (VOA-Washington)

The Bush Administration is strongly denouncing anti-Jewish comments made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the visit to Syria by Pope John Paul II.

Assad greeted the pope at Damascus airport Saturday with a speech urging Christians and Muslims to unite against Israel - and accused the Jewish state of having what he called "the same mentality as those who betrayed Jesus Christ."

At the ceremony, Assad told the Roman Catholic leader that Jews are trying to kill the principles of all other religions. He also accused biblical Jews of betraying Jesus Christ and of trying to kill the Islamic Prophet Mohammed.

Monday, the Bush Administration called such comments as regrettable as they are unacceptable. "There's no place from anyone or any side for statements that inflame religious passions and hatred. We hold with the pope's call for reconciliation. That is really the only way forward especially in these difficult times," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
The comments by the Syrian leader also drew immediate criticism from Israel and from Jews in the United States who denounced them as poisonous and full of hate and bigotry.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav called on the pope to respond to charges by Syrian President Bashar Assad that the Jews betrayed Jesus and are oppressing the Palestinians. "The Vatican should indeed respond to the remarks, directly or indirectly, openly or obliquely, in order to correct them."

"Just as the Vatican has exonerated the Jewish people of the blood libel that it was responsible for the execution of Jesus, it should have responded to the Syrian president's historically erroneous remarks," the president continued.






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