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Israel Grounds Pilots Who Signed Protest

By VOA News

The Israeli air force has grounded nine pilots who refused to carry out air strikes against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The nine pilots signed a letter that said the air strikes are "immoral" and endanger innocent Palestinian lives. Also signing the letter were 18 pilots not on active duty, some of who are reported to be older and in retirement.

The air force plans to call the nine pilots to meetings with the heads of their bases in the coming days. It said if the pilots did not retract their statement during these meetings, they would be dismissed from active service.

Air Force Commander Dan Halutz played down the letter's importance, saying the pilots are a tiny minority among the thousands Israel can deploy. Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip over the past month have killed 13 Palestinian militants. The attacks, which usually try to catch the militants in their cars or homes, have also killed or wounded a number of Palestinian civilians.

The pilots' revolt came as the head of Israel's Defense Forces, General Moshe Ya'alon, credited the policy of targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders with a recent lull in terror attacks. He also rebuffed the criticism from the pilots, saying their remarks constituted nothing more than, as he put it, a political statement made in army uniforms.

Thursday, Israel carried out a pair of ground raids in Gaza and the West Bank, killing four Palestinian militants. An Israeli soldier was also killed. The raids are part of Israel's ongoing effort to hunt down militants and end the three-year Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.


IOM Resolves Claims of Nazi Forced Labor Victims

By Lisa Schlein (VOA-Geneva)

The International Organization for Migration, or IOM, says it has resolved more than 75 percent of the hundreds of thousands of claims it has received from victims of Nazi forced labor. Of the nearly 330,000 claims it has received, IOM says it has approved payment for 63,000 victims of Nazi slave or forced labor. The IOM says it rejected 187,000 claims because they did not meet the necessary criteria, as specified under the German Foundation Act.

IOM Spokeswoman Marie-Agnes Heine says it is urgent that payment be made to the victims, as soon as possible. She says they are all very old. Most of those living in Eastern European countries are poor and need money to pay for basic household needs, as well as for medical expenses.

"The German Foundation Act was meant mainly to compensate Eastern European forced laborers, because they had never had the chance to receive any compensation or any recognition for what they had to go through under the Nazi regime, the deportation and the forced labor. And therefore, it's always assumed, and it was so by law under the Nazis, that they were treated in a particular harsh ways. They were treated very badly - Eastern Europeans."

The German government and German industry have each contributed 50 percent of the $300 million fund, administered by the so-called German Foundation. The IOM has been chosen to process the claims and make payments to the victims.

Individual payments range from about $1,150 dollars to nearly $8,900. Victims from Poland, the Czech Republic, Israel, Germany and the United States have submitted most of the claims. The IOM says it aims to complete all payments by the end of 2004.


Israelis E-Pray to Kotel
Israel Faxx News Services

Cell phone text messaging has already helped 30,000 Israeli Jews, too lazy or busy to visit the Kotel in Jerusalem, to send their prayers to a rabbi who then places a printout in the Western Wall's stone crevasses. "Not everyone has the means or time to get there," said Gal Wagner on Wednesday, an official from the company that began offering the service two weeks ago for about $1.20.

Prayer by mobile telephone has now become a viable alternative for Jews who traditionally put prayers or wishes in the Kotel in the hope they would come true. The wall is the last remaining retaining wall of Herod's massive structure to God. The Western Wall is one of Judaism's holiest sites.

The Israeli cellular phone users send the text message with their prayers to the number "1818," numbers which in Jewish tradition symbolize life (the service is not currently available to people living abroad). The messages are received on a computer, collated and then faxed to a rabbi at the Wall who is paid to tear off each message and insert it between the stones.


Jew Hating Academic Dead at 67

By VOA News

Edward Said, one of the most prominent spokesmen for the Palestinian national cause, has died at age 67.

In speeches, essays, and media appearances, Said consistently criticized Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people and called for an independent Palestinian state. He opposed the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords of the 1990s, which he called "an instrument of Palestinian surrender."

Said was born in Jerusalem in 1935, when the city and what is now Israel were ruled by the British. His family went to Cairo after the 1948 war that established Israel and created the first generation of Palestinian refugees. He spent most of his adult life in the United States, where he was a professor of literature at Columbia University in New York City.

Colleagues say he had battled leukemia for years and died in a New York hospital late Wednesday.


Arafat Pockets 580 Million Pounds Sterling

By IsraelNationalNews.com

According to a report in the British Telegraph, Yasir Arafat has transferred 580 million pounds sterling of PA funds into his private accounts. The report is based on information obtained from the World Monetary Fund. WMF officials are expected to launch an investigation.

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