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World Bank: Israeli Offensive Could Destroy Palestinian Economy

By VOA News

Representatives from the World Bank and the United Nations say Israel's offensive into Palestinian territories could destroy the Palestinian economy. Nigel Roberts, the World Bank director for the West Bank and Gaza, denounced curfews and closures that restrict civilians freedom of movement. Roberts said Israeli closure of the Palestinian territories has produced a 30 percent unemployment rate and a 50 percent poverty rate. He said it would take three years for the Palestinian economy to recover if the closures were lifted tomorrow.

Turkey Accuses Israel of Genocide

By VOA News

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has accused close military ally Israel of carrying out genocide against Palestinians in the ongoing offensive in the West Bank. Ecevit's remarks to his party members Thursday are Turkey's harshest public criticism since Israel launched a broad military offensive against Palestinian targets one week ago.

The criticism comes as public protests against Israel mount in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Thousands of Turks are reported staging protests for a third straight day under heavy police surveillance.

Largely Muslim Turkey and Israel cooperate on a wide range of military and security issues. Tuesday, Ecevit said Turkey will not cancel a $668 million tank modernization deal with the Jewish state, despite the West Bank siege.

Missiles Fired At Israeli Post In Disputed Area

By VOA News

Tension is rising along the Lebanese-Israeli border after nine missiles were fired from south Lebanon Thursday at an Israeli radar post in the disputed Shebaa Farms area. Lebanese police reported the missile attack. It is unclear if there was any damage or casualties. There are conflicting reports on whether the Lebanese-based Hizbullah guerrilla group was responsible.

While the Associated Press reported that Lebanese security officials pinned the attack on Hizbullah, other news agencies quoted Hizbullah sources as saying they had no knowledge of the attack. Tuesday and Wednesday, Hizbullah fighters fired mortars and rockets at Israeli troops in Shebaa Farms, an area occupied by Israel where the Lebanese, Syrian and Israeli borders come together. Israeli forces responded with cross-border shelling and air strikes near Lebanese villages.

Thursday's attack came hours after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel was ready to take "all actions" required to defend its forces and its northern towns. Sharon also accused Iran and Syria of backing a recent surge of Hizbullah attacks.

Bush Will Send Powell to Middle East

By VOA News

President Bush has called on Israel to stop making incursions into Palestinian-ruled territory and withdraw from recently occupied Palestinian towns. The president also demanded that Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat do everything in his power to stop terrorist suicide bombings.

Bush accused Iraq of paying off families of suicide bombers, and Iran of sending arms to Palestinian militants. He said he would send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Mideast next week to push for a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, Israel said it would allow Mideast envoy Anthony Zinni to meet with Arafat, though the timing is still uncertain. The two have not met since last week's start of Israel's current military offensive. The envoy briefly met Thursday with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Arafat remains besieged by Israeli forces at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah. Thursday, Israel blocked a European delegation from meeting with the Palestinian leader.

Israeli Tanks Enter Hebron

By VOA News

Israeli tanks and personnel carriers reportedly entered the West Bank city of Hebron as Israel widened its invasion of Palestinian population centers. Israeli forces have already taken control of six other of the largest Palestinian towns and cities in the week-long offensive.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the operation would continue until there was a complete end to Palestinian terror and incitement. The Palestinian leadership has asked the international community to intervene and it vowed that Palestinian fighters will continue to resist. Fighting continued in Nablus, which Israel went into Wednesday night, and in Jenin. More deaths are reported in both cities.

Israel's army chief of staff General Shaul Mofaz said Israel should expel Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat because there is no chance of reaching a peace deal with him. Sharon said earlier that Israel would keep the Palestinian leader isolated at his besieged headquarters in Ramallah.

In Bethlehem, explosions and gunfire were heard near the Church of the Nativity, where Israeli forces have about 200 Palestinians, gunmen and civilians, under siege. Multiple reports said Israeli troops blew open a door in the wall surrounding the church. The Israeli military denied this. Israeli soldiers prevented reporters from reaching the scene to assess the rival claims.

Israel And Jews Are Linked, For Better And Worse


Norway's largest supermarket chain has decided to boycott all Israeli goods, and called on all its Scandinavian competitors to do the same.

A Norwegian poll shows that only 9 percent of the public supports Israel. Sweden is considering calling an economic boycott on Israel.

In France, yet another synagogue was firebombed and caught fire Wednesday night, this time in Montpelier; no one was hurt. In a separate incident, a bus belonging to a Jewish school in a Paris suburb was also set ablaze..

In Finland Thursday, police evacuated three Jewish institutions - a synagogue, a home for the elderly, and a school - in central Helsinki after a bomb threat was received.

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