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Palestinians Vow Revenge for Israeli Airstrikes

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

Thousands of mourners have vowed revenge for Israeli airstrikes that left 14 Palestinians dead and 80 others wounded. The mourners carried seven of the dead Palestinians on stretchers through the streets of Gaza's Nusseirat refugee camp. They chanted in a message to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, "You have opened hell's gate."

The seven, including two members of the militant group Hamas, died when Israeli missiles slammed into a car carrying the militants. The attack was the fourth of five in series that began before dawn Monday. Elsewhere, two Hamas militants and a civilian died when another vehicle thought to be loaded with weapons was hit.

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat Tuesday urged world leaders to take immediate action over what he called the military folly of Israel. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qureia denounced the airstrikes as "ugly crimes."

Israel said Monday's air strikes were in retaliation for the launches of eight Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Sunday. The air strikes also came a day after Palestinian gunmen ambushed and shot dead three Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank.

Israeli troops Tuesday pushed into Ramallah and declared a curfew. The troops have reportedly surrounded a mosque as part of an operation military officials say is aimed at finding Palestinian militants. On Monday, Hamas and another militant groups, Islamic Jihad, issued a joint statement urging all Palestinian factions to coordinate their response to what they called Zionist aggression.

In a speech to Israel's parliament Monday, Sharon said there would be no let up in attacks on militants. Army Radio on Tuesday evening quoted military sources as saying that seven of the 14 Palestinians killed in the air strikes were positively identified as Hamas operatives. The other casualties were believed to be non-combatants.

According to video footage provided by the IDF, the target areas of at least two of the air force raids were empty of Palestinian bystanders at the time of the missile strikes. The army released the video - filmed by a r0emote-control pilotless-plane flying above Gaza and screened on Israeli television news programs Tuesday evening - showing two missiles hitting a car about a minute apart after a brief chase.

"We didn't see any massive gathering of people. We will not allow munitions to be launched when there is a massive gathering of people," said a senior air force officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. The grainy video showed a crowd gathering around the car about two minutes after the second strike, and the video ended some 40 seconds later. The military said an additional 10 minutes were recorded but didn't release the additional footage.

National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said Tuesday that Israel should apologize for the civilian casualties and compensate the victims, Israel Radio reported. Asked Tuesday about the civilian casualties in IAF raids, Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said: "the murderous Hamas and Jihad terrorism nests deep within the civilian population. Some of this population - and I emphasize, some - collaborates and aids these murderous organizations. Not all are innocent there, certainly not those who store lathes (for producing Qassam rockets) and weaponry, bombs, and Qassams in their homes," Boim told Israel Radio, adding that "some of them also receive good money for this. This is also true of the (arms-smuggling) tunnels in Rafah."

Army spokeswoman, Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron, told Army Radio that "the primary responsibility of the IDF is to defend Israeli citizens. The blood of the victims in Gaza is on the hands of the terrorists." Yaron added that "we were forced to stop the car and capture the terrorists who were in it. To our great regret, civilians were also hit during the strike, but anyone who flees into a densely populated area put the population at risk."


Malaysian PM Reiterates Controversial Comments About Jews

By Gary Thomas (VOA-Washington)

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad continues to spark controversy with his remarks about Jewish influence. Despite strong condemnation of his words, he reiterated them in an interview Tuesday with an English-language newspaper in Bangkok, where he is attending an Asia-Pacific leaders' summit.

During his 22 years in office, Mohamad has never shied away from the spotlight. In a soft, sometimes near-monotone voice, he has attacked Europeans, Jews, homosexuals, international financiers and environmentalists. So with retirement looming at the end of this month, Mahathir let loose another broadside during an Islamic leaders' summit in Kuala Lumpur.

"The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million," he said. "But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them. They have now gained control of the most powerful countries. And they - this tiny community - have become a world power."

His remarks drew a standing ovation from the assembled Islamic leaders, but brought worldwide criticism elsewhere, as a false stereotype that has led to genocide in the past. However, he has refused to recant, and has indeed repeated his views in other forums, most recently Tuesday in the Bangkok Post.

Mohamad said Tuesday, in response to a question from Ha'aretz, that he would be willing to come to Israel to explain his charges against the Jewish people, if the leadership of world Jewry would first explain why they refer to Muslims as terrorists. "I would [visit Israel] after the Jewish leadership would go the Muslim countries and explain why they call Muslims terrorists. That would be fair. Then I will go to Tel Aviv and explain why I said what I said."

Asked by Ha'aretz to clarify his controversial speech last week, Mahathir said, "My speech was very clear. I said that the Jews have all the world behind them - and that's why they can defy the United Nations." Mahathir went on to say that his country did not view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a war between Jews and Muslims, but rather as a territorial conflict "over land stolen from the Palestinians, which they have a legitimate right to fight for."

Despite a barrage of international criticism over his remarks, an unrepentant Mahathir Mohamad also maintained that Jews are arrogant and insisted they do control the world.

Jewish organizations came out strongly against Mahathir's statements. The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center said Mahathir's speech could spur violence against Jews. "This is incitement against Jews and it provides a rationale and motivation for terror against Jews," Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, told Reuters.

Analysts believe that Mahathir is not just trying to shock people, although such remarks obviously have that effect. Martin Rudner, a Malaysian affairs specialist at Carleton University's Norman Patterson School of International Affairs in Canada, says Mahathir really believes his own rhetoric. "He is essentially a racist, not in a pejorative sense, although we in the West would see it as pejorative, but he actually believes and says so that biological and genetic characteristics define people, including, by the way, his own people."

In his speech, Rudner said, the Malaysian leader was trying to exhort Muslims to hone their minds to fight what he perceives as a threat from Jews. Bill Case, a Malaysian affairs specialist at Griffith University in Australia, says Mahathir is under ever-greater pressure by the forces of political Islam in his country.

Ironically, Rudner says, Mahathir himself was subjected to racist stereotyping. As a young politician, Mahathir displayed great cleverness, which earned him a nickname among his rivals. He was dubbed "Yahud" - the Jew.

Mohamad said Tuesday, in response to a question from Ha'aretz, that he would be willing to come to Israel to explain his charges against the Jewish people, if the leadership of world Jewry would first explain why they refer to Muslims as terrorists. "I would [visit Israel] after the Jewish leadership would go the Muslim countries and explain why they call Muslims terrorists. That would be fair. Then I will go to Tel Aviv and explain why I said what I said."

Asked by Ha'aretz to clarify his controversial speech last week, Mahathir said, "My speech was very clear. I said that the Jews have all the world behind them - and that's why they can defy the United Nations." Mahathir went on to say that his country did not view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a war between Jews and Muslims, but rather as a territorial conflict "over land stolen from the Palestinians, which they have a legitimate right to fight for."

Despite a barrage of international criticism over his remarks, an unrepentant Mahathir Mohamad also maintained that Jews are arrogant and insisted they do control the world.

Jewish organizations came out strongly against Mahathir's statements. The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center said Mahathir's speech could spur violence against Jews. "This is incitement against Jews and it provides a rationale and motivation for terror against Jews," Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, told Reuters.


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