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White House Challenges Sharon's Statements


White House sources have expressed objections to statements made Thursday by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who stated that if there were a renewed wave of terrorism while Yasir Arafat is abroad, Israel would consider not permitting the PA leader to return. Sharon pointed out that trips to Arab countries by Arafat have in the past been accompanied by renewed terror in Israel.

Congressional Leader Calls For Transfer


House of Representatives Majority Leader Rep. Richard Armey (R.Tex), speaking with Chris Matthews on MSNBC said Thursday: "I am content with Israel keeping all the land it occupies now."

When Matthews asked if he means to say that "all the Palestinians who are now in the West Bank should get out of there? Is that correct?," Armey responded, "Yes." He explained that there was plenty of room for the PA population in other Arab countries.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay suggested earlier this week that Israel should not withdraw from territory it captured in the 1967 war, despite the Bush administration's call for an independent Palestinian state. He also equated Israel's struggle against the Palestinians with the U.S. war on terrorism, and pointedly did not use the phrase "West Bank" but said rather "Judea and Samaria."

Security Council Discusses Collapse of Jenin Probe

By VOA News &

A divided U.N. Security Council is considering how to proceed after Secretary-General Kofi Annan canceled a mission to investigate Israeli army actions in the Palestinian refugee camp at Jenin. Council members met Thursday to review a letter drafted by current Council President Kishore Mahbubani of Singapore.

It says council members "deplore" Israel's decision not to cooperate with the fact-finding mission. The draft letter also asks Annan to produce a report about events at Jenin that is as accurate, thorough and balanced as possible. U.N. officials say Annan is waiting for the council to approve the draft letter before disbanding the 20-member fact-finding team that is still on stand-by in Geneva.

Diplomats say Arab countries want a new resolution that would authorize the council to take "measures" against Israel for refusing to cooperate with the U.N. mission. Israel objected to the composition, mandate and scope of the fact-finding mission. Palestinians say Israeli forces carried out a massacre in the Jenin camp last month, a charge Israel denies. The United States says it regrets the collapse of the mission, which it helped create, but supports Annan's decision to disband the fact-finding team. In his letter to the Security Council, Annan said he regrets aborting the fact-finding mission, because "the long shadow cast by recent events in the Jenin refugee camp will remain." He said conditions in the Jenin camp are changing day by day, making it more and more difficult to establish with any certainty what happened there.

Israeli officials say the Palestinians arranged a "funeral" for an Arab who was still alive - all in order to create an impression of more casualties than there actually were. Cameras aboard an Israel Air Force pilotless plane captured the images of the "funeral" on film shot on Sunday, April 28, at 7 a.m.

The "body" was first seen walking, then being wrapped in mourning cloth, and finally coming to "life" when the procession concluded. It is apparent that most of the "mourners" were not aware that the funeral was staged. The presentation of the film is the latest effort in Israel's campaign to take the offensive in the ongoing public relations struggle with the Palestinians. The army says it is aware of other similar fake funerals, but that this was the first one it was able to film.

Arafat Vows to Rebuild Ramallah

By VOA News

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat has vowed to rebuild Ramallah after touring the war-battered West Bank city hours after Israeli troops withdrew from his compound and ended his long confinement. A defiant Arafat flashed the V-for-victory sign to cheering crowds of Palestinians as he emerged from his compound Thursday. Israeli forces had prevented him from leaving Ramallah since December, and confined him to his office in late March.

Arafat denounced what he called the "barbaric activities" of the Israeli army. He condemned what happened in Ramallah as racism as he visited a hospital and several severely damaged Palestinian Authority buildings.

Israeli troops left Ramallah before dawn under a U.S.-brokered deal that transferred six Palestinians wanted by Israel from the Arafat compound to a Jericho jail, where British and U.S. wardens are monitoring them. Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser says a similar deal could be used to end a month-long standoff at the Church of the Nativity. About 200 people -- including Palestinian gunmen wanted by Israel, have been holed up in the church since April second.

Palestinian Policeman Killed at Bethlehem Church

By VOA News &

Israeli troops have shot and killed a member of the Palestinian security force and wounded two other Palestinians at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The Israeli army said snipers opened fire on the armed Palestinians Thursday when the men emerged from the Israeli-besieged church. Palestinians returned fire.

Israeli soldiers later handed the body of the policeman over to Palestinian authorities and transferred the two wounded men to a hospital.

In other developments, about 10 Western left-wing activists dashed into the church compound and delivered food to those inside. The Israeli army detained at least 10 other activists before they made it inside. The activists have vowed to stay in Bethlehem until the stand-off is over. One person was able to make his way into the church.

The High Court of Justice has rejected a petition seeking permission to bring food and drink to the terrorists. IDF commanders announced that persons may come out of the church and get food and drink, and then return. The court told the petitioners, Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi and Mohammed Barakeh, that since the army is offering food and drink; the court was rejecting the petition.

Meanwhile, a Vatican envoy, French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, met with Israeli President Moshe Katsav in Jerusalem to call for an end to the crisis at the church - one of Christianity's holiest sites. Cardinal Etchegaray then traveled to Ramallah and met with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

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