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>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
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
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
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
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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