Newsletter : 2fax0412.txt
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Blast Near Tunisian Synagogue Kills at Least 6
By VOA News
The explosion of a fuel truck near a synagogue in Tunisia has
killed at least sixpeople, including tourists, and injured about
20 others. The truck, carrying cooking gas, jumped the pavement on
the island of Djerba and hit a perimeter wall of the Ghriba
synagogue - one of the oldest in Africa and a shrine that draws
Jewish pilgrims from around the world. Tunisian officials and local
Jewish leaders said the explosion was an accident. Israeli
government officials described it as a deliberate anti-Semitic
attack, but did not give evidence for that assertion.
Powell Plans to 'Move Aggressively' on Ending Mideast Violence
By VOA News
Secretary of State Colin Powell has arrived in Jerusalem in an
effort to mediate a ceasefire to end more than 18 months of
Powell will hold consultations Friday with Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon. The secretary has set aside nearly three hours for his
talks with Sharon. He is scheduled to meet later with Foreign
Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Benyamin Ben-Eliezer.
Powell is expected to meet Saturday with Palestinian leader Yasir
Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Sharon has said that such
a meeting would be a "tragic mistake."
Before leaving Jordan Thursday, Powell said he planned to "move
aggressively" towards ending violence and restoring political
action between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Powell said he and King Abdullah stressed the need for humanitarian
assistance to the Palestinians. He said both Jordan and the United
States are ready to meet this need. At a news conference, Jordan's
Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher expressed confidence in Powell's
peace mission, stating that Jordan wants to work with the United
States and Egypt to create a "credible alternative" to the violence
in the Middle East.
Earlier Thursday, King Abdullah and Queen Rania carried boxes of
food and medicine and chatted with aid workers at a military
airport in Amman while waiting for Israel's approval to fly the
supplies to the besieged West Bank. On Wednesday King Abdullah told
a meeting of U.N. officials and relief workers that Jordan had set
up an "air bridge" to ferry humanitarian supplies to the
Sharon: Army to Stay Until Terrorists Surrender
By VOA News
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his troops would remain in
Palestinian towns until "the terrorists surrender."
He was speaking hours before the arrival of Secretary of State
Colin Powell. The United States has been pressing Israel to
withdraw from all Palestinian cities and towns occupied in Israel's
offensive over the past two weeks.
Israel invaded Palestinian cities in the West Bank March 29,
following a series of Palestinian suicide bombings that killed
dozens of Israelis. Hundreds of Palestinians have died during the
offensive. Sharon said the offensive would continue, despite
pressure from the United States to end the operation.
Israeli government spokesman Daniel Seaman said the Jewish state
would continue its mission to capture militants and weapons until
it has been successfully completed. "We agree with the United
States in principal," he said. "We have said from the beginning we
have no intention of remaining in these areas and already from
locations that we have concluded military operations we have
withdrawn from over the past 48 hours. But there are other places,
and we said it quite clearly from the beginning, until the military
operation concludes we are staying there."
The Israeli army announced Thursday that it has withdrawn from 24
Palestinian towns. But Israeli tanks and troops have pushed into
two other West Bank towns, Bir Zeit and Dahariyah, and the Ein Beit
Hilmeh refugee camp. Troops made a number of arrests in Bir Zeit.
Palestinian officials called the Israeli pull-out announcement "a
big lie" meant to deceive world opinion.
The Israeli army also said it has arrested more than 4,000 people
during its campaign to root out Palestinian militants, and that
more than 100 of those arrested are on Israel's list of most wanted
Israeli tanks and troops remain in the key Palestinian cities of
Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin and Bethlehem and on the outskirts of two
In the Jenin refugee camp, a last pocket of 36 Palestinian fighters
surrendered to Israeli forces Thursday, apparently after running
out of food, water and ammunition. About 300 fighters surrendered
late Wednesday. Palestinian officials are calling for help to
relocate hundreds of families left homeless by the Israeli attack
on the refugee camp.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said Israeli achieved its goals in the
Jenin camp. She said most of the men Israel wanted have either
surrendered, been captured, or were killed.
At least 23 Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Palestinians were
killed in several days of fierce fighting in the refugee camp.
Israeli forces are continuing house to house searches there. Troops
shot one camp resident Thursday.
Europe, Vatican Demand End of Siege on Church of Nativity
By VOA News
A top European official, the Vatican and the Franciscan religious
order have appealed to Israel to end the siege of one of
Christianity's holiest sites - the Church of the Nativity in
Israeli forces surround the church compound, intent on capturing
the 200 Palestinians, including armed men, who took refuge there
nine days ago. About 40 friars and nuns also remain in the
European Commission President Romano Prodi called on the Israeli
government to respect international humanitarian law and allow aid
into the church. In Brussels, he said he received a desperate
telephone call from monks pleading for international help.
Franciscan Father David Jaegar said the church complex is now
without food, water or electricity. Prodi said the Israeli forces
have denied the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and all other
humanitarian agencies access to the church to bring emergency aid.
Israeli forces have an observation balloon with surveillance
cameras stationed above the complex, keeping watch. Snipers are
perched on nearby rooftops.
The Vatican has made strong appeals to the Israelis and
Palestinians to respect holy sites. Israeli President Moshe Katsav
replied in a letter saying Israel will continue the siege until the
gunmen surrender. The church was built on the site where Christians
believe Jesus was born.
Earlier, Thursday, an Armenian Orthodox monk was shot and seriously
wounded at the Bethlehem compound. Each side blamed the other for
the shooting. Palestinians said Israeli soldiers shot the monk
after breaking open a door. The Israeli army said Palestinians
fired as soldiers were transferring food and medicine to clerics in
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