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Six Palestinians Killed in Gaza Clash

By VOA News

Medics in the Gaza Strip said six Palestinians have been killed and 17 wounded in a clash between militants and Israeli troops in a Gaza refugee camp. Witnesses said Israeli troops entered the Rafah refugee camp early Thursday and encircled two houses. Palestinian militants threw grenades and opened fire on the Israeli troops. Israeli military officials said the troops arrested a wanted Palestinian militant from the Islamic Jihad group.


Three Killed in Attempt on Life of Underworld Kingpin

By Ha'aretz


Three people were killed Thursday afternoon and at least 30 were injured in an explosion on Yehuda Halevy Street in Tel Aviv in an apparent attempt on the life of underworld kingpin Ze'ev Rosenstein. The explosion took place inside a foreign currency exchange booth, close to a busy intersection.

Killed in the blast were Moshe Mizrahi, 28, from Eilat, who was passing by at the time; Tel Aviv resident Rehamim Suriya, 43, and 19-year-old Naftali Meged, son of the owner of the foreign currency exchange. Police believe that the blast was criminally motivated due to the fact that underworld figure Rosenstein was lightly hurt in the explosion, as was one of his bodyguards.

Rosenstein is allied with the Netanya-based Abutbul family, whose patriarch Felix was murdered last summer outside one of his casinos in Prague. Opposing them are the Alperon and Abergil families. The current round of fighting goes back to an attempted murder of Nissim Alperon, who survived the attempt and came to believe Rosenstein was behind it.

Yarkon region police commander Ezra Aharon said that police forces, assisted by a helicopter, were searching for Rosenstein, who apparently left the area shortly after the blast, and later arrived at Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava. After being treated at the hospital, Rosenstein was transferred to the police for questioning.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced Thursday that the cabinet would convene for a special meeting Sunday to discuss organized crime. Police commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki convened senior police officers Thursday evening for talks on the implications of the Tel Aviv explosion, as well as to discuss the fight against organized crime.

According to the initial investigation into Thursday's incident, a powerful explosive device was placed on the change booth's awning. A witness told Ha'aretz that he saw Rosenstein and his security guards running out of the store with blood on their clothes, and that they drove off in a Mercedes. Rosenstein was apparently sitting at a restaurant adjacent to the foreign exchange booth. Several cars on the street were damaged as a result of the explosion, and a porch on a nearby building collapsed.

There were several previous attempts to assassinate Rosenstein, a foremost police intelligence target who is believed to be the most powerful figure in the Israeli underworld. Rosenstein, the owner of casinos here and abroad, has survived at least four attempted hits since 1996. In July 2003 Rosenstein was lightly hurt in a blast in Tel Aviv's port, along with five bystanders.


French Report Backs Ban on Veils, Kippot and Crosses

By Reuters

France should ban Muslim veils, Jewish kippot and large Christian crosses from its public schools, while creating new holidays to respect holy days of minority religions, an official report said on Thursday. The long-awaited report on church-state relations, the center-piece of a national debate over integrating Muslims into French society, advised Paris to stand firm against militant Islamists trying to undermine official secularism.

President Jacques Chirac said he would announce next Wednesday whether he would seek a law banning the veil, now a major issue in France amid concern of failed Muslim integration and growing Islamist influence. He has hinted he backs a ban.

France, once so Catholic it was called "the eldest daughter of the Church", is now 8 percent Muslim and Islam is its second-largest religion. But eight of its 13 national holidays are based on Christian feasts such as Christmas and Easter. Its five-million-strong Muslim community and its 600,000 Jews are both the largest minorities of their kind in Europe. Christian, Muslim and some Jewish religious leaders have in recent days urged Chirac not to seek an outright ban.

The commission proposed barring "conspicuous signs of political or religious affiliation" but said discreet medals - such as a small cross or Star of David - were acceptable. It also suggested adding Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and the Eid al-Fitr festival at the end of Islam's Ramadan fasting month to a list of official school holidays.

Apart from the veil, the commission also investigated issues such as Muslim women refusing treatment by male doctors, pupils challenging teachers about the Holocaust and a "new anti-Semitism" among disaffected Muslim youths.

"This anti-Semitism is real in our country," commission secretary Remy Schwartz said. "We found children have to leave public schools in some areas because they are not physically secure... This has profoundly shocked the commission."


Survey: Germans Annoyed About Holocaust Guilt

By Reuters

Almost 70 percent of Germans said they were annoyed at being held responsible for the Holocaust and many believe Jews use Germany's Nazi past to their advantage, a major German university survey showed on Thursday.

The survey by Bielefeld University showed 69.9 percent were irritated at still being held responsible today for crimes against Jews. A quarter of 3,000 people surveyed also agreed with the statement: "Many Jews try to use Germany's Third Reich past to their advantage and want to make Germans pay for it". A further 30 percent said there was "some truth" to the statement.

Some 60 years after the end of World War Two, Germany is still haunted by guilt and it has spent decades debating how to atone for the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. Endorsing the survey, German parliamentary president Wolfgang Thierse said he understood why so many wanted to shed the guilt for what happened before they were born. He said the survey did not prove there is widespread anti-Jewish sentiment.

"It's a surprising figure at first. But when you think about the thought process behind it, it is understandable," he said. "The people alive now are not the perpetrators." There was a new distinction between guilt and a responsibility to stop history repeating itself, he said.


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