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Nine Young Palestinians Leave Bethlehem Siege

By VOA News

Nine young Palestinians and two bodies have been evacuated from Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where Palestinian gunmen have been under siege by Israeli forces for more than three weeks.

Two Franciscan monks escorted the young people out of the church under an arrangement with the Israeli army. The bodies of two Palestinians killed by earlier gunfire at the Christian shrine were carried out and taken away in an ambulance. Israeli troops questioned the nine youths and gave them food and a medical check-up.

While the evacuation was underway, Israeli troops fired smoke bombs to obscure the view of journalists trying to watch what was happening. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed earlier to allow 10 to 15 teenaged Palestinians to leave the besieged church compound. At least 200 people, including Palestinian gunmen and church workers, have been holed up under Israeli army siege in the church since April 2. Food is becoming scarce and sanitary conditions are worsening.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators held further talks Thursday to end the stand-off - but failed to reach an agreement. Israel says about 30 wanted men among the besieged must stand trial in Israel or go into exile. Palestinians reject that and instead suggest the men be escorted to the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Court Sentences Killers of Israeli Minister

By VOA News

A Palestinian military court has convicted and sentenced four militants to jail terms for killing an Israeli cabinet minister last year. Israel quickly dismissed the move. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is still insisting the men be handed over to Israel for trial before he ends the military blockade of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in Ramallah.

Later in the day, Israeli forces allowed the Ramallah governor to leave Arafat's besieged compound, where he has been trapped with other Palestinian officials since Israeli forces invaded the city a month ago.

The makeshift court, convening in Arafat's headquarters, found the four defendants guilty in the October assassination of Israel's ultra-nationalist tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi, in Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority says the sentences range from 18 years with hard labor to one year, and that Arafat ratified the decision.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine denounced the court action as invalid and a farce. It demanded the Palestinian Authority cancel the ruling. The PFLP said it killed the Israeli minister to avenge Israel's killing of the group's leader, Abu Ali Mustafa, in a helicopter strike last August.

Early Thursday, Israeli soldiers killed one Palestinian and arrested four others during a raid in Hebron. The Israeli army also says its troops killed four Palestinians who tried to attack a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces killed two other Palestinians in separate incidents.

Palestinians Refuse US Aid Donations in Jenin

By VOA News

Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp have turned away shipments of U.S. aid and relief supplies to protest Washington's military assistance to Israel. Palestinian officials in Jenin said residents refused to unpack the shipment of food, tents and toys Thursday, after the aid arrived in trucks from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

A spokesman at the camp said residents would not accept the U.S. aid because their homes had been destroyed by the Israeli army using American-made weapons. Palestinians accuse Israel of committing a massacre in the West Bank refugee camp. Israel has denied the claim, saying its incursion into the camp was to crush a terrorist network.

Jewish Terrorism Tongue-in-Cheek

By Prof. Stephen Berger, Tel Aviv Medical Center

Following the latest atrocity in Jerusalem, Secretary Powell pleaded with the Palestinians to issue some form of denunciation. Arafat complained that only the Palestinian side is ever required to denounce terror. Predictably, the Palestinian denunciation later mumbles that they, "deplore the murder of civilians on both sides."

Perhaps the Palestinians have a point, and so to set the record straight, I do hereby denounce the following in the name of the Jewish People:

  1. All Jewish suicide bombers who have ever acted against Arabs.

  2. All Arab buses blown up by Jews.

  3. All Arab pizza parlors, malls, discotheques and restaurants destroyed by Jewish terrorists.

  4. All airplanes hijacked by Jews since 1903.

  5. All Ramadan feasts targeted by Jewish bombs.

  6. All Arabs lynched in Israeli cities; all Arab Olympic athletes murdered by Jews; all Arab embassies bombed by Jews.

  7. All mosques, cemeteries and religious schools fire bombed or desecrated by Jews in North Africa, France, Belgium, Germany, England or any other country.

  8. The destruction of American military, governmental and civilian institutions in Kenya, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen - along with the murder of U.S. Marines and diplomatic personnel.

  9. All Jewish school books which claim that Arabs poison wells, use Christian blood to bake pita, control world finance, and murdered Jesus; or that Arab elders meet secretly to plot a world takeover.

  10. And I am particularly ashamed at the way my fellow Jews attacked the World Trade Center, Pentagon and civilian aircraft on September 11, and danced in the streets to celebrate the act.

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