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Female Combatants to Serve Three Years


The army hopes to have a new regulation approved in time for the August 2002 draft by which females volunteering for combat units would be required to serve for three years, as is the case with their male counterparts. Beginning with that draft, females would serve for two years instead of the current one year and nine months. If the new regulation goes into effect, inductees entering combat units such as pilot training, artillery, or other combat positions, would be required to serve for three years.

Powell: Meeting With Arafat 'Constructive'

By VOA News

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday's talks with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat were useful and constructive. After the three-hour meeting at Arafat's heavily-damaged Ramallah headquarters, Powell said he and the Palestinian leader discussed specific steps on moving forward. He said staff-level meetings between his and Arafat's delegations would continue Monday.

As Sunday's talks began, a cordon of Israeli troops and tanks parted to allow Powell's convoy to approach the battered Palestinian facility, which has been under siege by Israeli forces for more than two weeks.

After the talks, Powell appeared alone outside the Palestinian leader's wrecked office building to talk to journalists. Palestinian officials said Arafat stayed inside for security reasons. Israeli forces resumed their positions as Powell left Ramallah for meetings in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Powell had planned to meet Arafat on Saturday, but postponed the talks after another Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem killed seven people Friday.

The secretary of state agreed to meet with Arafat only after the Palestinian leader issued a statement in Arabic condemning all terrorist activities against civilians, including Friday's attack. The militant group Hamas immediately rejected the statement, saying it would continue attacks against Israel.

Israel to Lift Ban on Entering West Bank Areas

By VOA News

Israel's military said it would lift the ban on entering many of the Palestinian areas in the West Bank occupied by Israeli forces. When the lifting of the ban takes effect, humanitarian groups would be able to distribute badly needed supplies, and journalists would be able to take a look at what Palestinians say has been severe devastation. Some areas will remain closed.

In Bethlehem, where Palestinian gunmen remain under siege inside the Church of the Nativity, witnesses said Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian policeman who had come out of the church. The Israeli army said its soldiers did not fire on the church complex, but did not comment further.

Earlier, Christian leaders in Jerusalem sent Secretary of State Colin Powell a plan to end the 12-day standoff. They are calling for a three-day truce to allow Israeli forces to withdraw from the area. Then, the Palestinian Authority would be asked to confiscate the weapons of around 200 Palestinians who have taken refuge in the church. Powell and Israel have yet to comment on the proposal.

The Church of the Nativity is built at the place where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born.

Germany: Tunisia Blast Near Synagogue Was Deliberate

By VOA News

Germany said a deadly blast outside a synagogue in Tunisia apparently was a deliberate attack, not an accident. In an interview with German television Saturday, German Interior Minister Otto Schily said investigators from both Germany and Tunisia have concluded the explosion was a planned attack. He gave no details of the evidence they collected.

Ten German tourists were among 16 people killed when a truck carrying cooking gas crashed and exploded Thursday outside the Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia's Djerba island. The death toll increased Sunday when two severely-wounded German women died overnight.

Tunisian officials and leaders of the country's small Jewish community said the explosion was an accident, but the Israeli government contended it was an act of terrorism.

Peace Joke Received Via the Internet


A journalist assigned to the Jerusalem bureau had an apartment overlooking the Western Wall and every day when she looked out of her window, she saw an old bearded a Jew praying vigorously. Certain he would be a good interview, the journalist waited until he left the section of the Kotel reserved for men and introduced herself.

She asked: "You come every day to the Wall. Sir, how long have you been doing this, and what are you praying for?"

The old man replied, "I have come here to pray every day since the Six Day War in 1967. In the morning I pray for world peace and for the brotherhood of man. I go home, have a cup of tea, and I come back and pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the earth. And very, very importantly, I pray for peace and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians."

The journalist is impressed. "How does it make you feel to come here everyday for nearly 35 years and pray for these wonderful things?" she asked.

The old man looked at her for a moment and then, very calmly, replied, "Like I'm talking to a wall."

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