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Amos-2 Launched


Israel's Amos-2 communications satellite was launched this weekend, seven years after the launching of the Amos-1.

Although Amos-1 still has at least another two good years to it, it was decided not to take any chances in meeting Israel's growing communications needs. Amos-1 serves radio and television stations in Israel, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, and Ukraine.

The more advanced Amos-2, co-located at 4 degrees West longitude with Amos-1 at a height of 22,500 miles, will arrive at its position later this week, and begin operation a month from now. Amos-2 has a planned life span of 12 years, and cost $150 million. It will circle the Earth once an hour, and will be guided back onto course, when necessary, by a control system located in the U.S.

Iranian Leaders to Victims: Better That You Die Than We Accept Israeli Help


Iran took time out from dealing with its nearly 30,000 earthquake casualties to spew forth more hatred towards Israel - even at the expense of its own dead, wounded, orphans and homeless. "The Islamic Republic of Iran," announced the country's official news agency IRNA, "welcomes all the humanitarian aid being offered by various countries and organizations - except for that from the Zionist entity."

Despite the above, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom issued a statement of condolences, saying, "The Government of Israel and the people of Israel feel the pain of the human tragedy being experienced by the Iranian people. Amidst all our differences, what is required at these moments is total mobilization by the international community to help the families of the dead and injured."

Private and public Israeli groups are attempting, despite the Iranian government's hostility, to help ease the enemy country's human suffering, via third parties or other unofficial channels. "This is not a political question," said Dr. Mike Naftali, chairman of the Topaz Humanitarian Fund of the Israeli Kibbutz Movement. "Tens of thousands of children are suffering terribly, and it is incumbent upon us, as human beings, to help them."

Israeli-Palestinian Group Launches Antarctic Expedition

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

A group of Israelis and Palestinians have launched an expedition to Antarctica, in a bid to show their two communities can work together for the betterment of mankind. The group of four Arabs and four Jews joined forces for a project called Breaking the Ice. Their objective is to climb an unnamed and unexplored mountain near a plateau in Antarctica.

But the participants also have another goal, to build strong bonds in situations where they will be forced to depend on each other to survive. The makeup of the team is a demonstration of how some Israelis and Palestinians are able to put aside their hostilities in pursuit of a common goal.

The group includes one Palestinian who served three years in Israeli jails for firebombing Israeli soldiers, and two former members of an elite Israeli commando unit. Another member is an Ethiopian woman who trekked across the wilderness of Sudan at the age of 14 to immigrate to Israel.

The team flew from Tel Aviv for Chile on Saturday to start their expedition. Shortly before departing, the members were seen hugging each other in excitement and posing for photos with relatives who came to bid them farewell.

The team is to set sail from Patagonia in southern Chile, and then anchor off the coast of Antarctica. From there, the group will start preparing for the ascent of a previously unclimbed mountain and conduct a naming ceremony at its peak.

The expedition is being sponsored by Israel's Peres Center for Peace. The institute, named after the former Israeli prime minister and now opposition leader, Shimon Peres, seeks to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. The project also includes the making of a documentary film, set to be completed by the middle of next year.

Israel to Consider Syrian Bid to Restart Peace Talks

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem) &

While only several dozen skiers arrived at the Golan Heights' Mount Hermon Ski Resort on Sunday, more that 1,000 area visitors made their way to the top of the mountain. Ski resort officials reported significant snow accumulations and good skiing conditions, adding on the top slope, the snow is more than 39 inches high.

Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said he is considering a recent overture from Syria to restart peace talks. He is investigating whether a recent statement by Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, indicating a willingness to resume peace talks with Israel, is sincere.

Sharon told his cabinet Sunday that the offer deserves investigation, and he asked Israeli officials to look into the matter and come up with a recommendation. Sharon's comments contrast sharply with Israel's initial reaction to Assad's statements earlier this month in a conciliatory interview with The New York Times.

Assad urged the United States to resume mediation efforts between Israel and Syria, remarks first viewed by Israel as an attempt by Damascus to improve its relations with Washington.

Sharon said Israel would study Syria's motives and whether the overture is real or a response to pressure from the United States. He says that before Israel would consider resuming negotiations, Syria would have to take certain steps.

He said that Syria, which is the main power broker in Lebanon, would have to banish the militant Islamic group Hizbullah from southern Lebanon. This, he said, would allow the Lebanese army to deploy along the border with Israel to dismantle the rockets and other weapons currently positioned there by the Hizbullah terrorists and aimed at the Jewish state.

Previous negotiations between Israel and Syria ended in 2000 without result. After succeeding his late father in the same year, Assad adopted a tough stance against Israel. His comments earlier this month were the first public sign of a possible change in his position.

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