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>Israel Faxx
>JN Feb. 11, 2002, Vol. 10, No. 28

Shekel Continues to Fall Against the Dollar


The financial community explains the latest devaluation of the shekel against the U.S. dollar is the result of the Sunday afternoon fatal terrorist attack in Beersheva.

As a result, the shekel is trading at 4.71 to 1 U.S. dollar.

Israeli Jets Strike Gaza Strip

By Dan Ephron (VOA News-Tel Aviv) &

Israeli jets have struck targets in the Gaza Strip hours after Palestinian gunmen killed two female Israeli soldiers near the army's southern headquarters in Beersheva.

Palestinians say at least 18 people were wounded by the Israeli air strikes on a metal works and a security post in Gaza City.

The air strikes were in retaliation for Sunday's attack when Palestinian gunmen jumped out of a car and fired automatic weapons at soldiers on their lunch break. The troops returned fire, killing the two gunmen, but not before two women soldiers were shot dead and 18 other people wounded. The Hamas militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called a meeting of his security cabinet and blamed Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, saying he has done nothing to prevent attacks by militant groups like Hamas. During his talks in Washington, Sharon failed to persuade President George W. Bush to cut off ties with Arafat.

Also Sunday, Israeli military officials say Palestinians fired as many as two rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The rockets landed in field, causing no damage or injuries, but Israel said this was a serious escalation. Sharon had warned of a severe response if Palestinian rockets strike Israeli communities.

The Palestinian gunmen who killed two women in the Beersheva attack near an army base were shot dead by bystanders. Police said the Palestinians climbed out of a car and sprayed bullets at a cafe near the base. One woman was killed instantly and a second women died later of wounds sustained in the attack.

The IDF censor has permitted the publication of the names of the terror attack victims, both soldiers. They are Lt. Keren Rotstein, 20, from Ashkelon, and Corp. Aya Malachi, 18, Ein HaBasur.

Witnesses to the shooting, including several soldiers, charged the gunmen and opened fire. They killed one of the militants and chased the other into a parking lot, where soldiers shot him dead. One of the Palestinians wore an explosive belt which sappers later detonated, according to police. For hours, helicopters hovered overhead, searching for a third man, but police said later that only two gunmen were involved.

The tragedy could have been many times greater had one of the terrorists managed to detonate the explosives pack he was later found to be wearing on his person.

Upon landing in Israel Sunday afternoon, Sharon again blamed Arafat, saying, "Jewish women were murdered as a result of terrorism for which Arafat is directly responsible." Taken together with Sharon's declared search for a successor for Arafat, this statement seemed to imply that Abu Ala, Abu Mazen, and Mohammed Rashid, with whom Sharon met 10 days ago, do not share responsibility for the murderous terrorism.

At about 1:30 p.m. a beige Mazda Lantis occupied by two or three terrorists drove to the area of Palmach Street in the Old City of Beersheva, stopping and spraying the area with automatic gunfire.

Being in direct proximity to the army's Southern Command Headquarters, there were many soldiers on the street, some hit by the gunfire, others ducking, while Maj. Guy Shacham drew his handgun, neutralizing one terrorist. The major stated the two were dressed in civilian garb, adding the shooting did not last for more than 10-20 seconds, "the longest in my life," he added.

Mubarak: 'Chaos' if Anything Happens to Arafat

By VOA News

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has warned of chaos in the Middle East if what he calls any "misfortune" should happen to Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

The Egyptian leader said he was not defending Arafat as an individual but was speaking for "the cause of peace and stability in the region." He said if anything untoward should happen to Arafat, all countries in the region, including those that support Israel, would be plunged into chaos.

Mubarak described as a serious matter the virtual confinement of Arafat, who has been restricted by the Israeli army to his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah since December 3. Israel has said the confinement will continue until some wanted Palestinian terrorists are handed over to Israel.

Mubarak said he is in constant contact with all parties to try to resolve the deadly Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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