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Powell: Israel Must Stop Incursions

By VOA News

Secretary of State Colin Powell concluded his six day mission in Israel and the Palestinian territories without achieving a ceasefire. He told reporters in Jerusalem that "ceasefire" is not a relevant term while Israel continues its military incursion into Palestinian areas. He said Israel must end the incursions, and that Palestinian leaders must act against terrorism.

The secretary said senior U.S. officials, including CIA Director George Tenet, will be in the region to try to end the Israeli-Palestinian violence. Powell said he intends to return to the area to advance things, though he gave no date.

Powell spoke Wednesday, after a second meeting with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. He said he made it clear to Arafat that he must decide, as the rest of the world has decided, that terrorism must end. The secretary of state also said he takes Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his word that Israeli troops will withdraw from recently occupied West Bank Palestinian areas within "a week or so."

Powell and Arafat met for two hours in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Speaking to reporters afterwards, an outraged Arafat appealed to the United States and the international community to break Israel's siege of his headquarters. He asked, "Is it acceptable that I cannot go outside from this door?" Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the Israeli prime minister had "torpedoed" Powell's mission.

President Bush said he believes Secretary of State Colin Powell has made progress toward realizing peace in the Middle East.Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute Wednesday, Bush said the United States is confronting centuries-old hatred and disputes that have lingered for decades. But he said he will continue to work toward what he called a "vision of peace."

Hassan Nafae is the head of the political science department at Cairo University. He said Powell's only accomplishment was to further alienate an already angry Arab world from the United States. "I think you will not find any single citizen in the whole Arab and Muslim world that has any respect now for the American government. And we all have the impression that Israel will lead the United States to a tremendous and very regrettable confrontation between the United States and the Arab world."

Israeli Tanks Pull Back But Do Not Leave Jenin

By VOA News

Witnesses report that Israeli tanks have left the center of Jenin but are still occupying the fringes of the West Bank Palestinian town. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday that Israeli forces would be leaving Jenin and Nablus within a week. Israeli troops encountered their fiercest resistance in the two towns as they began entering Palestinian areas earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Bethlehem said he would ask Pope John Paul to come to the West Bank city to help end the standoff between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops at the Church of the Nativity. About 200 armed Palestinians along with a number of civilians and clerics have been holed up in the church for 15 days.

A teenage Palestinian boy who escaped from the church Monday said people inside are cold at night and do not have much food. But he said no one is talking about surrendering to the Israeli forces surrounding the Christian holy site.

Israeli troops and tanks also swept into two West Bank villages Wednesday. One Palestinian was killed during the operations into Bal'a, east of Tulkarm, and in Silat al-Harthiyah, northwest of Jenin. The Israeli army said the operations are aimed at seizing wanted militants.

France Grapples With Increased Anti-Semitic Attacks

By Roger Wilkison (VOA-Brussels)

A series of attacks on Jewish schools, synagogues and cemeteries in France is being blamed by French officials on the worsening crisis in the Middle East. Police have stepped-up patrols at potential targets, and French leaders have called for an immediate halt to the attacks. But anti-Jewish incidents show no signs of abating.

French police have said they are tallying up to a dozen anti-Jewish incidents daily, since Israel began its military offensive in Palestinian territories at the end of March in response to a series of deadly suicide bombings against Israelis. The incidents range from the scrawling of anti-Jewish graffiti to physical attacks on Jews and their places of worship, study or recreation.

Police said no organized element seems to be behind the attacks, but they suspect that disaffected young men from North African immigrant families are responsible for most of them. One police officer said these youths believe they are defending the Palestinian cause, as violence escalates in the Middle East, by targeting symbols of Judaism.

Police have taken about 40 people into custody since the wave of anti-Jewish violence began, but most have been released. Most of those who remain in detention have been identified as being of North African origin. Many of them have police records for crimes, including vandalism, theft or drug-peddling. Some are minors.

The government has boosted police protection in Jewish neighborhoods and at likely Jewish targets. But Roger Cukierman, who leads an umbrella group of French Jewish organizations, said more needs to be done. "Things can only be stopped, if the police are arresting aggressors and making strong examples with a lot of publicity," he said.

Cukierman said French government denunciations of Israeli tactics in the West Bank, along with media coverage of the Middle East conflict, have inflamed the situation in France.

The Palestinian representative in Paris and some Muslim religious leaders have urged Arabs in France not to take out their hatred for Israeli actions on the Jews of France. But some French Jews have said those responsible for the attacks have neither the inclination nor the interest in making such a distinction.

A French human rights group, called the League Against Racism, said many Jews are beginning to develop a fortress mentality, in the face of the authorities' inability to stop the attacks. The group said some Jews are unwilling to even talk about the attacks, while others want to create their own security militia.

With nearly 700,000 Jews and up to 5 million Muslims, France has the biggest such communities in Europe. French politicians, religious leaders and commentators are worried that the anti-Jewish attacks - and the Arab-Israeli crisis - could cause a fundamental rupture between two groups that have so far coexisted peacefully in France, and lead to a foreign conflict being played out on French soil.

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