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54-Year-Old Gives Birth to Twins


A 54-year-old woman has given birth to twins, a boy and a girl, in Tzfat's (Safed) Rebecca Ziv Hospital. The boy weighs 2.900kg (6.3 pounds) and the girl 2.300kg (5 pounds). Margaret Tikis lost her son IDF Sgt. Benny in a terror attack at the Ein Arik Checkpoint in the Ramallah area about two years ago and expressed her overwhelming joy over the birth of her twins.

Israeli Troops Kill 5 in Gaza Gun Battles

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli troops on Sunday killed at least five Palestinians, including one they say was a wanted fugitive, during gun battles with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The soldiers entered the town of Khan Younis early Sunday and surrounded a compound where, they said, a member of the Islamic group Hamas had gone into hiding. The Israeli army said that as the man, Basem Kadeeh, and his wife tried to flee, the troops opened fire and the bomb he was carrying exploded, killing both of them.

A gun-battle ensued with other armed Palestinians from Hamas, and some were killed. The Israeli soldiers then demolished the compound, which it said contained a workshop for making rockets, mortars and missiles.

The raid is part of a military offensive into Gaza that began last week after Hamas claimed responsibility for a double Sunday bombing in the port of Ashdod, which killed 11 Israelis. Hamas, which is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, has carried out frequent suicide bombings and other attacks that have killed hundreds of Israelis.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Israel's cabinet on Sunday that military strategists are putting together a plan to significantly weaken Hamas, before a proposed Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Mofaz said the plan would include stopping terror attacks from Hamas, blocking the transfer of funds to the organization and destroying what he called its terrorist infrastructure.

He said Israel has decided to step up its offensive against Hamas after learning that it is being supported by the Hizbullah in Lebanon, another terrorist Islamic group dedicated to Israel's destruction. Mofaz also indicated that Israel is likely to launch more air strikes from attack helicopters against Hamas members in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Security Forces Hit With Legal Actions Over Treatment of Palestinians

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's security forces have been hit with a series of legal actions over their treatment of Palestinians. At least one officer is to be charged with manslaughter, and a Palestinian youth has been awarded financial compensation after being severely wounded.

Israeli military prosecutors said they would issue an indictment against an army officer in connection with the deaths of four Palestinians, three of them children. The officer is to be charged with involuntary manslaughter. The decision relates to a June 2002 incident in the West Bank town of Jenin, which at the time had been placed under a military curfew.

Israeli forces encountered hundreds of Palestinian residents in the streets, who, they believed, had deliberately disobeyed orders not to stay indoors. The company commander, a colonel, allegedly fired two tank shells into what he mistakenly believed was an empty area of Jenin, to disperse the crowds. The shells killed the four Palestinians and wounded dozens of others. Lawyers for the officer are attempting to have the charges dropped in favor of disciplinary action.

In a separate case, the Jerusalem District Court ruled last week in favor of a young Palestinian man wounded by Israeli security forces. He was struck by a rubber bullet in the first week of the Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000. Mohammed Juda was 16 years old when he was fired upon during riots in Jerusalem's Walled Old City. Since then, he has been paralyzed from the neck down. The court ruled that his parents be awarded about $500,000 in compensation.

Sharon Seeks U.S. Rejection of Palestinian Right of Return

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he wants the United States to announce that it rejects claims by Palestinian refugees that they be allowed to return to areas that are now part of Israel. Sharon told a meeting of his ruling Likud Party on Sunday that he would ask for this guarantee in exchange for agreeing to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

Sharon addressed members of his Likud faction amid growing opposition to his plan to unilaterally withdraw troops and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. He said this would become the only option for Israel if peace talks with the Palestinians remained stalled.

Sharon told Likud members on Sunday that he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state following an Israeli withdrawal. However, he stressed that a future Palestinian state would be the only place for millions of Palestinian refugees to make their home and that they would be barred from entering Israel. Sharon said he also wants the U.S. administration to publicly support this stand before implementing his disengagement plan.

Israeli officials said the chief of staff of Sharon's office, Dov Weisglass, is expected to make this position clear to senior U.S. officials, during a visit to Washington this week. But some Likud members, such as Gilad Erdan, say they would oppose Sharon's plan, even if it were backed by U.S. guarantees.

Erdan said any unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank was tantamount to giving a reward to terrorism. "We always claimed, and we still do, that withdrawing or giving the terror organizations to believe or to understand that with terror activities they can gain something from Israel - that is terrible thing to do. It's very clear that this plan will tear the Likud apart because, I believe, the majority in the Likud oppose the prime minister's plan."

Meanwhile, a high-level Egyptian security delegation is expected in the Gaza Strip this week to discuss the implications of an Israeli pullout from the territory. Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Egyptian officials want to assist in training Palestinian police to maintain law and order in Gaza, following the evacuation of Jewish settlers and Israeli troops from the area.

Israel, China to Review Military Ties

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

A high-level Israeli delegation has flown to China for talks on rebuilding military ties between the two countries. The discussions are the first in more than three years, after Israel canceled the planned sale of spy planes to Beijing in the face pressure from the United States. Top officials in the department's export division accompany the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry, General Amos Yaron, who leads the delegation to China.

The Defense Ministry described the talks as a confidence-building measure after the United States demanded Israel call off its $1.2 billion deal to sell three Phalcon planes to Beijing in July 2000. The aircraft feature sophisticated Israeli surveillance equipment mounted on Russian cargo aircraft. The planes were designed to provide advanced warnings of an enemy attack. This year Israel reached an agreement to sell the same aircraft to India, with the support of the United States.

But the U.S. administration said it opposed the planes being sold to China for fear this would give Beijing a strategic edge over Taiwan. It asked Israel to cancel the sale. China demanded compensation equal to the agreed price, but after lengthy negotiations it accepted that Israel would pay $350 million. The cancellation was seen as a major setback to Israel's efforts to build a substantial trade in arms with Beijing.

From the early 1970s until 1992, when the two nations established diplomatic relations, it is estimated that Israel sold up to $4 billion worth of military equipment to China. Israeli Defense officials said China has shown a willingness to renew its military ties with the Jewish state, but the two countries are proceeding cautiously. The officials said Israel would never again take the risk of proposing a sale of military equipment to China if it were to be seen as posing a strategic threat to United States interests.

Fatah Apologizes for Killing an Arab Instead of a Jew


George Elias Khouri, 21, a Christian Israeli-Arab whose family lives in Nazareth and northern Jerusalem, was murdered "by mistake" on Friday night by Palestinian terrorists. He was jogging in the Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood when a car pulled up alongside him. A passenger inside fired four shots, two of which hit Khouri in the head; he died on the way to the hospital. Khouri's funeral was held Sunday in Jerusalem's Mount Zion Orthodox Cemetery.

The Al-Aqsa Brigades of Palestinian chieftain Yasir Arafat's Fatah organization quickly announced that they had committed the murder - but when they learned that the victim was an Arab, the terrorists issued a corrected announcement: "The fighters thought that the jogger was a settler, as this was an area full of settlers. This was a mistake, and a letter of apology has been sent to the family. We will consider George Khouri a 'shahid' [holy martyr]..."

Yediot Achronot reported that Arafat phoned the Khouri family to express his condolences, and promised to make every effort to catch the murderers. This was a curious reaction, however, in light of his attitude towards the murderer of Khouri's own grandfather in similar circumstances. Khouri the elder was one of four Arabs - amidst a total of 14 victims - killed in the famous "refrigerator blast" terrorist attack of July 4, 1975 in downtown Jerusalem. The perpetrator of that attack, Ahmed Jabara, was freed from prison last summer - and Arafat greeted him with kisses.

Couple Says El Al Used Them to Carry Package

By Ha'aretz

El Al, which takes great pains to ensure that its passengers do not carry parcels for others, asked one its passengers to bring objects into Israel, subjecting them to fines and possible arrest by customs authorities, according to a complaint filed by Dr. Effi and Sarit Carmi that was made public this past weekend.

The couple decided to publicize their case after reading that El Al places weapons in the luggage of unsuspecting passengers as an exercise for its security officials. According to the complaint, which was filed with El Al CEO Amos Shapira last July, El Al employees, including a security officer, approached the Carmis in Newark International Airport in New Jersey and asked them to bring to Israel a package including a medical device for a terminally ill boy.

The Carmis, impressed by the official El Al request and the humanitarian issue, agreed to take the package. The security officer escorted Effi Carmi to pick up the package from a secure room, according to the complaint. After the couple arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport, customs officials, who accused them of attempting to smuggle in an "electrical device", detained them. The Carmis refused to pay the large fine and were allowed to exit the airport after leaving the package at customs. They filed a formal complaint with Ben-Gurion Airport police against El Al.

After the Carmis returned home, an El Al employee, a customs worker and a Jerusalem travel agent called them regarding the package. A few days later, a young man who identified himself as Ran called to say the package was meant for him. It turned out that Ran was no little boy, but a 26-year-old man from Petah Tikva who had received a kidney transplant about six months earlier, and that the device in the package was a music system, not a medical instrument.

Following the instructions of El Al employee Yehuda Koren, Effi Carmi met with Ran and they arrived at the customs office together, where Ran paid the fine and took his package. Carmi blamed El Al employees for the incident. "They took advantage of my innocence and of the fact that I'm a doctor - my business card noting my degree was in my passport - so they could ask me to bring the package, which required a customs payment."

The outcome, he said, could have been far worse. "The customs agent at Ben-Gurion told me that if, for example, they had found drugs in the package, I would have been arrested and charged with trying to smuggle drugs to Israel and sent to jail. I protest the cynical use that El Al employees make of innocent passengers so as to illegally transfer packages from abroad to Israel. What's happening here? There's no messenger service or any other way besides using innocent passengers?"

El Al said its employees behaved appropriately, that it had already responded to Effi Carmi, and that from its perspective the issue was closed. "El Al employees behaved as they did in all innocence and as a humanitarian move, and there was nothing wrong with their behavior," the company said.

El Al said the package Carmi was asked to bring with him belonged to an El Al passenger who came late for the previous flight and that its transfer was delayed due to the need to carry out the necessary security checks. After being told that the package was supposed to go to someone who had cancer, El Al employees agreed to assist, within the required limitations.

According to El Al, after security checks were conducted, there was no reason that the equipment shouldn't be transferred via another passenger who agreed to do so. Several passengers agreed to take the package with them, including Carmi, who acted out of free will and understood what was going on, the company said.

Design for Library of Life Symbolizes Middle East Peace

By Cornell University Press Service (via Newswise)

99th KILOMETER MARKER, ISRAEL/JORDAN BORDER -- Flying over this 150-acre speck in the desert, it is possible to imagine a near-perfect circle ringed by two green arcs. Approach by land, and imagine the arcs enlarging to groves of olive trees, a spiraling tower behind them.

After it is completed, in about five years, the tower eventually will be home to the world's most advanced database, the Library of Life. The entire complex itself, called the Bridging the Rift Center (BTR), will be a symbol in the desert between Israel and Jordan, seeking, as its name indicates, to create a bridge between two divided societies.

What will this collaborative scientific research center involving Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., look like? "Everything about the center -- its name, its mission, its site and its design -- speaks to the desire on the part of the two neighboring peoples to live and work together in harmony," says Cornell-trained architect Mustafa Abadan, who heads the BTR design team at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York (the firm also is developing Daniel Libeskind's designs for the new World Trade Center).

The BTR team chose a circle as the organizing principle, Abadan says, because "it has been a symbol of unity and wholeness throughout history" and because it is "a strong geometric presence that gives form to the challenging, essentially shapeless desert landscape."

The association of the olive branch with peace led to the idea of encircling the site with two olive groves that appear to embrace. Even some of the building materials used will be intended to reflect harmony: gold-colored limestone from Israel and reddish limestone from Jordan.

Perhaps the most potent symbol of the site is the "central spine" that bisects it on what was the actual border between Israel and Jordan before both countries donated the land to create a neutral zone for the research center. All the research buildings will touch on the spine, and "everyone who walks along it will literally be bridging the rift," says Abadan.

Abadan's team and the BTR project's developers envision Ph.D. students from Israel, Jordan and other Middle East countries working side by side with Cornell and Stanford scientists on the most ambitious data-organizing project in the world -- to assemble information on all living systems, starting with those in the Dead Sea region 43 miles north of the facility. Because of the centrality of its mission, the Library of Life will be located in the exact center of the circle, says Abadan. The spiraling tower, which will house the library, will be made up of two encircling arcs that repeat the circular theme of unity and cooperation. Clad with brilliant metal, the tower will shine across the desert.

A courtyard in front of the Library of Life tower will serve as a gathering place, while adjacent to it will be a large auditorium and conference center, a dramatic-looking horizontal building made of two curved copper- and wood-clad concrete shells that will be the campus's focal point. Patterns of light from the building's exterior will play off the surface of a nearby reflecting pool.

The facility also will include laboratories, planting fields dedicated to life science studies, living quarters, a retreat and recreational facilities with tennis courts and a pool.

Abadan seems undaunted by the difficulty of building a sophisticated research facility in the middle of the desert and says that his training at Cornell prepared him for such challenges. "The best thing that Cornell architecture does for you is it teaches you how to tackle new problems, ask questions and find solutions," he says. He included other Cornell architecture graduates on his team because he knew they would have similar problem-solving skills.

Some of the team's design solutions for the desert environment, where temperatures can soar to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, include giving buildings a north-south orientation and employing solar reflectors on rooftops to control exposure to the sun, carefully placing buildings and using trellises above open areas, recesses and other architectural elements to provide shade. While the facility's laboratories will require air conditioning to keep them at a constant temperature, living, dining and other public areas will be kept cool by fans and low-energy evaporative cooling methods typical in the region.

"Bridging the Rift will be somewhat self-sufficient," says Abadan. It will produce some of its own power from photovoltaic panels mounted on its laboratory roofs, supplementing the electrical power brought in from Jordan and Israel. Large water reserves and aquifers deep in the ground below the facility will supply all the water needed.

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