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Two Palestinian Dead in Israel Strike on Lebanon

By Reuters

Two Palestinian gunmen were killed late Tuesday in an Israeli air strike on southern Lebanon after firing rockets toward the Jewish state, Lebanese security sources said. The group of Palestinians fired three rockets at northern Israel, one day after Israel assassinated Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza. A third Palestinian was wounded, they added. It was not clear whether the gunmen belonged to a particular group. Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said after Yassin's killing "the Zionists will discover soon that they have committed a very big folly, to add to their series of previous follies." Nasrallah said Israel would pay a "heavy price" for its "ugly crime."


Hamas Chooses New Leadership

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

A new leader has emerged to head the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza, replacing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli missile strike on Monday. Former Hamas spokesman Abdul Aziz Rantisi has been named to serve in the role. The crowd chanted its support for Rantisi after his selection was announced. He said Palestinians would never surrender to what he termed Israeli terror.

Later, he spoke in English to reporters. "We have to unify in the trench of resistance. We will not surrender. And we shouldn't surrender in front of the Israeli terror. So, the unity of Palestinians and the continuation of resistance will be my goals in the coming future."

Rantisi also said there would be a more formal election process in Hamas at some time in the future. But for now, he will lead Hamas in Gaza, and he said exiled Hamas official Khaled Mashaal, who lives in Syria, is the group's overall leader.

Rantisi is known as a hardliner in his advocacy of no compromise with Israel. On Monday, he warned that following Yassin's assassination there would now be "total war" with Israel. He said that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had "opened up the gates of hell." Responding to the Yassin assassination, Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and other militant groups also vowed revenge.

Israeli officials said earlier Tuesday that no Palestinian militant leader was safe. Israel's public security minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, warned there would be "no immunity" for any Palestinian militant leader. Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Israel would continue to target militant leaders when, as he put it, opportunities present themselves. He also suggested that Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah could be next in line. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said remaining leaders of Hamas are also being targeted.

Israel has clamped a closure on the West Bank and Gaza, preventing Palestinians from entering Israel. Israeli police and soldiers are on heightened alert in Israeli cities. Yassin's assassination drew widespread condemnation from Arab and European governments. The United States said it was "deeply troubled" by the killing, but stopped short of condemning it.

Israel said Yassin was responsible for ordering many suicide attacks against Israelis. An overnight public opinion poll by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot indicated that 60 percent of Israelis supported the decision to kill Yassin, even though they expect more attacks as a result. Eighty-one percent of those questioned said the assassination would lead to more attacks by militants.


Experts: Killing of Sheikh Yassin may Escalate Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

One day after the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in an Israeli missile strike, Israel has vowed to target all Palestinian militant leaders, and Palestinians are vowing revenge. For Israeli officials the case is clear: the assassination of Yassin was legitimate self-defense against a man they deemed responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.

"The strike against Yassin is a significant blow to the Hamas terror organization," said Israeli Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon. He added that Israel would continue to target militants when opportunities arise. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz confirmed reports that the rest of the Hamas leadership was on the hit list.

An Israeli security analyst, retired Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom of Tel Aviv's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, said Israel targeted Yassin because Hamas had recently changed its tactics and resumed suicide attacks inside Israel. He said the assassination was directly linked to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

"Because Sharon declared his intention to get out of the Gaza Strip, Hamas' conclusion was that this was a good opportunity to resume their operations and create the perception that Israel was leaving the Gaza Strip because of the pressure of the terror operations, and Israel cannot afford this perception," he explained.

Brom said he knew of no links between Hamas and al-Qaida. In fact, he said Hamas has taken pains to distance itself from al-Qaida, but said that could change." If they [Hamas] will find it difficult to react to the Israeli pressure by operations in the occupied territories or in Israel, maybe they will look for a softer belly and that softer belly may be abroad," said Brom. "But they don't have any infrastructure abroad and the only way that will be open to them will be to try to cooperate with other Islamic groups."


Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Ancient Sea Israel Faxx News Services (Humor)

The U.S. space agency NASA said Tuesday that Mars once had a shallow, salty sea that could have supported life. The evidence has come from chemical and physical traits of rocks being explored by one of the two robotic rovers on the red planet. Mission scientists say instruments on the rover Opportunity have sensed sure signs that Mars had at least briny pools of water and possibly a more extensive sea.

But in a stunning development, Israel Faxx has learned that there is life on Mars. The first indication, based on the current U.S. space mission, came when the small roving vehicle spotted a sign on the rocky terrain of Red Planet that read, "Welcome To Chabad House -- Bring Moshiach Now." The sign, in English, thrilled and confused NASA scientists back in Houston, who had no idea what it meant. Only after thorough research did they learn that it revealed the presence of a dedicated and particularly hearty group of Lubavitch chasidim, known for their tireless efforts to reach Jews in the most remote regions, urging them to perform mitzvot.

"We've been here for some time now doing our work," said a cheerful Rabbi Lou Steinwalker, captain of the spaceship "Mitzvah 613", in an exclusive phone interview. When asked how long he had been on Mars and how he got there, he said only, "where there's a will, there's a way." He then excused himself, explaining that it was time for prayer and he was looking for a minyan. In a subsequent phone call, the Rabbi noted that in recent days another synagogue has been formed on Mars -- a reform congregation that he would not step foot in.

Following up on that information, we contacted Rabbi Uri Negev, a Reform leader in Israel, who said that when he had met secretly with the chief rabbis of Israel in Jerusalem recently, they told him that if Reform Jews wanted to pray in peace, they should go to Mars. "So we did," said Rabbi Negev, "and no one has bothered us, except the local Conservative congregation that keeps trying to borrow our membership list."

A Conservative congregation on Mars? Yes, it is true, acknowledged a leader of the Jewish Theological Seminary. "We discovered that blending Jewish law and modernity just doesn't work on earth, and we're always looking for new venues," explained Rabbi Ismore Sources. The rabbi complained bitterly of financial competition from the United Jewish Appeal-Interplanetary Division, which has been scouring Mars via satellite in search of potential donors.

Meanwhile, a number of kosher-for-Passover tours have scouted out the Red Planet as a unique alternative to places like Palm Springs and Hawaii for Jaded holiday vacationers, and that space stations are under construction to transport large supplies of oxygen, horseradish and shmura matzah for the eight-day festival. Tourism might be effected adversely, though, by a late report that Palestinian authorities are claiming entitlement to 92 percent of Mars, asserting that Arab ties to the planet can be traced back to the Koran.

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