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Holocaust Remembrance Day

By IsraeliWire.com

Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day began Monday night, one week before Independence Day. The theme for this year's commemorations is, "Their Last Voice: Letters and Testaments from Jews in the Holocaust." At the official opening at the Warsaw Ghetto Square, in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, President Moshe Katzav noted that anti-Semitism was once again on the rise around the world. Tuesday morning, a two-minute memorial siren will be sounded throughout the country, in remembrance of the more than six million Jews murdered in Europe by the Nazi regime between 1941-1945.


IDF withdraws from Qalqilyah, Tul Karm

By Ha'aretz, Deutsche Presse-Agentur & IsraeliWire.com

In order to assist Secretary of State Colin Powell's mission to the region, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has pulled IDF troops out of the West Bank cities of Qalqilyah and Tul Karm.

Military sources said the military operation in these cities had been completed. They said IDF troops have arrested militants and discovered weapons, and that there was no apparent terror infrastructure left to target.

"It's a start," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Monday night in response to the IDF pullout. "As the president said... all parties in the Middle East have responsibilities and the president expects all parties to step up to them."

Sharon said Monday that the army would remain in other towns it had reoccupied until it had "completed its mission." He said, however he was willing to hold summit talks with "moderate" Arab leaders without preconditions. "I am ready to go, at any time and to any place, to negotiate peace without any conditions," he said, in a lengthy address to the Israeli Knesset.

Sharon said the recent Saudi initiative, which broadly calls on Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in the 1967 Middle East War, in return for recognition by Arab states, had "a positive element," but without dialogue would remain "devoid of content."

The premier told lawmakers he promised President Bush that he would make every possible effort to expedite the Israeli offensive, which began March 29 in response to a series of deadly suicide bombings in Israeli cities. He said Israel had no intention of reconquering the Palestinian autonomous areas and that the army would withdraw to "designated security zones" after its mission was completed.

"The Israeli army will continue to operate as quickly as possible until its mission is completed and until (Palestinian chief) Yasir Arafat's terrorist infrastructures are dismantled and until the murderers, who have barricaded themselves in different places, including the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, are caught."

He added that he expected the international community to intervene to end the siege of the church, which began when around 150 armed Palestinians sought refuge in the Church. "Since we have no intention of desecrating the holiness of the place, as the murderers who have caught the place would have liked ... we expect the international community to call on them to lay down their weapons and to leave the holy place."


Private Security Companies Booming in Israel

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Jerusalem)

In March, 11 suicide bombing attacks in Israel killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 200 others. A terrorized Israeli public is demanding more protection and this demand for security has sparked a boom for security companies.

Rafi Swed runs the Tel Aviv-based Moked Imun security guard service. He said he cannot keep up with the demand. "We employ about 1,000 people and the demand increased about 30 to 40 percent in the last month, especially during the last few days after the suicide bombing in Netanya and Haifa. And, it increases all the time."

Swed says the ideal person for the job has military or police experience. But Israel now has called up more than 20,000 reservists for active duty. And that, Swed said, is making his search more difficult. "We put ads in the newspapers," he said. "We ask our employees to bring us friends and now we have another problem because there about 10 percent are under the call of the army for reserves."

Business is also booming at special training centers for security guards. Protect owner Itay Gil says the number of trainees has soared since the latest spate of suicide bombings.

A former member of Israel's elite military counter-terrorism team, Gil says the suicide bombings are a relatively new phenomenon. "And it's pretty difficult because they're getting a lot smarter," he said. "They come in camouflage, dye their hair. You know they're getting smarter, so it means we have to get smarter too."

Gil trains bodyguards for Israel's presidential office and other government agencies. He says they all have extensive military and police training. However, he says fighting suicide bombers requires other skills, too.

Gil said the aim was to prevent an attack or at least minimize the potential for injury.

Fewer Israelis are venturing out these days but Israel is on a high alert, amid fears of more suicide bombers. In a period of such anxiety, security companies do not expect business to slack off anytime soon.


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