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Hamas Official Denies Accepting Two-State Solution with Israel

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem) &

The Palestinian foreign minister is denying reports he might accept a two-state solution with Israel. The new Hamas government held its first cabinet meeting to discuss the growing financial crisis in the Palestinian territories.

Controversy deepened over comments by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, considered a hardliner in the Hamas Islamic-militant group.

Tuesday, Zahar sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. News reports quoted the letter as saying Palestinians were seeking a "two-state solution," to the Israeli Palestinian dispute. But Wednesday, Zahar angrily denied making such reports, which were first reported by the French news agency, AFP.

Zahar said the AFP report was completely false, and he never made any such statement. In his letter to the U.N. Secretary-General, Zahar said Palestinians want to live "side-by-side" with their neighbors - presumably Israel. But, he said Israel's expansion of settlements in the West Bank and the construction of a controversial security barrier would "ultimately diminish any hope" of achieving peace based on "a two-state solution," to the Israeli Palestinian dispute.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, disarm or recognize previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and the European Union.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who is also a senior member of Hamas, presided over the first full Cabinet meeting of the new Palestinian government. Haniyeh told his colleagues that the Palestinian Ministry of Finance has virtually no money to pay the estimated 140,000 Palestinian civil servants.

The transfer of tax and customs revenue collected by Israel and turned over to the Palestinian Authority was suspended by Israel recently, and other international donor assistance has also been suspended because of the Hamas refusal to recognize Israel.

Haniyeh also criticized Arab nations whose leaders met last week at the Arab Summit, saying that their pledges of support were "not sufficient to meet the demands of our people". A total of $55 million per month was pledged at the meeting but Arab nations have seldom made good on their pledges in the past.

Three Gulf State countries have promised $80 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, according to Omar Abdel-Razaq, PA finance minister. He said the money would come from Saudi Arabia. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and would cover part but not all of the government salaries.

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Wednesday that the organization was willing to talk with any country, except Israel. Speaking to an Omani news agency, Mashaal called Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to set final borders, unilaterally if necessary, "very dangerous". He added that there was no basis on which to negotiate with Israel at present.

Gaza Bird Flu Causes Poultry Shortage

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)
U.N. experts are warning that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip could begin suffering from protein shortages because so much poultry has been culled because of bird flu.

Calling bird flu a problem without a passport, U.N. officials are warning the threat of the virus remains extremely serious in the Gaza Strip, where bird flu was first discovered last month.

More than 500,000 chickens have been infected by bird flu in the Gaza Strip and half of those chickens have been culled. U.N. experts say efforts are well under way to cull the rest, but as a result Palestinians in the Gaza Strip could soon develop protein shortages, because chicken is a primary source of protein for most people living in the area.

Ambroggio Manenti, the regional head of the World Health Organization says because the main border crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip is closed for security reasons, there are few other protein sources for the residents of Gaza.

"The fact is that the poultry product is the primary source of protein intake in the Gaza Strip," said Manenti. "The lack of availability of alternate protein sources, particularly as a result of the recent closures of the Karni crossing, which has prevented imports, leads to concerns of nutritional consequences of this outbreak for the population."

More than one million chickens have been destroyed in Israel since bird flu was discovered last month. There are no reported human cases of the disease in either Israel or the Palestinian territories.

The threat of bird flu has transcended politics in the region with Palestinians, Israelis, and international health officials continuing to work together to contain its spread.

Israeli Expert Doubts Iranian Missile Claim


Middle East Newsline says that Iran has developed a missile that can be fired from and can prevent an American attack on its nuclear plant.

It quoted Iranian officials as reporting that the "Hut" torpedo is the fastest underwater weapon in the country's navy and is being tested this week. Iranian Naval officer Ali Fadavi said in an interview with Iranian television, "The Islamic republic is now among the only two countries who (sic) possess this kind of missile."

Israeli missile expert Uzi Rabin has discounted Iran's claim that it has developed a sea-based missile than can thwart an American attack on its nuclear facility.

Uzi Rabin, former director of Israel's Arrow missile program, told Reuters News Agency that Iran may be "bluffing." He added that if the claim is true, Iran received help from another country. He added that the description of the missile fits that of a Russian-made missile but that "the Russians do not claim the capability to hit several targets" as Iran stated.

Study Shows Sweden Applied Nazi Race Laws in Wartime

By Reuters

Sweden helped the Nazis stop Germans and Jews marrying and suppressed criticism of Hitler and reports of atrocities, according to new research suggesting neutral Sweden accommodated the Nazis more than previously thought.

"We are finding new areas of collaboration which we didn't know about," said Stockholm University historian Klas Amark, who coordinated the research commissioned by Prime Minister Goran Persson in 2000 in connection with a Holocaust conference.

The series of studies released Tuesday into Sweden's Nazi links shows it did not just avoid invasion by selling iron ore to Adolf Hitler and letting his troops through to invade Norway. Swedish pastors stopped marriages between "Aryan" Germans and Swedish Jews for violating the Nuremberg laws promoting Aryanism. This was done on the advice of the foreign ministry.

"From 1937, Swedes wanting to marry Germans of so-called Aryan blood had to give assurance that none of their grandparents belonged to the Jewish race," reads a study on Sweden's church by Anders Jarlert of Lund University.

Newspapers gagged criticism of Hitler, of the occupation of Norway or the murder of millions of Jews in concentration camps, while cultural links between the Nazis and Sweden flourished. "The government and authorities did what they thought was necessary to keep peace but I think they did more than was necessary," Amark told Reuters in an interview.

"There was not much rationale for a German attack as Germany got what it wanted from Sweden," he said. It was easier to buy iron ore from Sweden than invade and risk it sabotaging iron mines.

He blamed Sweden's attitude to Hitler on the ruling class's links with Germany and on anti-Semitism that meant Sweden had - and still has today - its own small National Socialist party.

Jesus Walked on Ice, Says Study Led by FSU Scientist

By Israel News Faxx Services

The New Testament story describes Jesus walking on water in the Sea of Galilee but according to a study led by Florida State University Professor of Oceanography Doron Nof in Tallahassee, it's more likely that he walked on an isolated patch of floating ice.

The study points to a rare combination of optimal water and atmospheric conditions for development of a unique, localized freezing phenomenon that Nof and his co-authors call "springs ice."

In what is now northern Israel, such ice could have formed on the cold freshwater surface of the Sea of Galilee –– known as Lake Kinneret by modern-day Israelis –– when already chilly temperatures briefly plummeted during one of the two protracted cold periods between 2,500 and 1,500 years ago.

A frozen patch floating on the surface of the small lake would have been difficult to distinguish from the unfrozen water surrounding it. The unfrozen water was comprised of the plumes resulting from salty springs situated along the lake's western shore in Tabgha –– an area where many archeological findings related to Jesus have been documented.

"As natural scientists, we simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years," Nof said. "We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account."

It isn't the first time the FSU researcher has offered scientific explanations of watery miracles. As a recognized expert in the field of oceanography and limnology –– the study of freshwater, saline and brackish environments –– Nof made waves worldwide in 1992 with his oceanographic perspective on the parting of the Red Sea.

His latest research appears in the April 2006 Journal of Paleolimnology, a scientific publication that addresses the reconstruction of lake history.

Using paleoceanographic records of the Mediterranean Sea's surface temperatures along with analytical ice and statistical models, Nof and his colleagues focused on the dynamics of a small section of Lake Kinneret comprising about 10,000 square feet near the salty springs that empty into it. Their analysis supports the likelihood that a brief blast of frigid air descended over the lake and dropped to 25 F (-4 C) for at least two days, coinciding with the chill that had already settled in for a century or more and quite possibly encompassed the decades in which Jesus lived.

If these atmospheric conditions existed simultaneously over a lake such as Kinneret, a floating ice patch could develop above the plumes generated by the salty springs.

Such a perfect combination of conditions on the low-latitude Kinneret might well seem miraculous. In the last 120 centuries, Nof calculates the odds as roughly once in 1,000 years. However, during the life of Jesus the prevailing climate may have favored the more frequent formation of springs ice –– about once in 30 to 160 years.

Floating springs ice partially or entirely surrounded by unfrozen water could be virtually impossible for distant observers to discern, particularly if subsequent rains had smoothed its surface; and 2,000 years ago, even those with a better view might not have recognized a natural phenomenon so rare in their corner of the world.

"In today's climate, the chance of springs ice forming in northern Israel is effectively zero, or about once in more than 10,000 years," Nof added.

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