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Spanish Basketball Team Afraid to Play in Tel Aviv


Spain's Valencia basketball team, scheduled to play Maccabee Tel Aviv Thursday in Tel Aviv in the Euroleague tournament, announced that it would not arrive - because of the security situation. Valencia said, "Our players are afraid, and were unable to concentrate during the last training session." Euroleague officials said Valencia would be punished with a 20-0 forfeit defeat as well as a monetary fine if it does not show up. "We have received the necessary guarantees from Maccabee that Valencia will be protected from the moment they arrive until they leave," a Euroleague official said. Maccabee coach Shimon Mizrachi said that he wonders whether Valencia is afraid for its security - or of a defeat on the field

Israeli Citizens Brace for Repercussions

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem) & Israel Faxx News Services

Repercussions of the assassination of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin are reverberating throughout the Middle East. The U.S. has warned its citizens in Gaza to leave, and has advised against travel to Israel and the West Bank. The Israeli Foreign Ministry ordered its diplomats and their families home from missions in Qatar and Mauritania.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yonatan Peled said the families were brought home a week before a planned home leave for the Jewish holiday of Passover. He said there were no direct threats on the two small missions in the Arab world, but for "security reasons" the families were brought home. The missions are small, and there are only about two or three families in each one, Peled said.

The State Department in a statement said, "In the aftermath of the killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Hamas spokesman has threatened revenge against Israel and U.S. interests. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness." On Tuesday, U.S. embassies in Syria and Jordan issued similar warnings to American residents there.

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, however, on Wednesday said Hamas had no plans to attack American targets. He said the group's agenda was to fight the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Another top Hamas official, Sayed Seyam, who told Reuters "It's not in our policy to target Americans or American interests", echoed these sentiments.

Hamas had released a statement shortly after the assassination on Monday, in which it directly threatened the U.S. for the first time in the group's history. "The Zionists didn't carry out their operation without the consent of the terrorist American administration, and it must bear responsibility for this crime," the statement said.

President George W. Bush told reporters on Tuesday that these threats by Hamas were being taken seriously. "I'm worried about terrorist groups targeting America," Bush said when asked about the threat posed by Hamas. "Whether it be an Hamas threat, or an al Qaeda threat, we take them very seriously in this administration."

Hamas Sets Sights on Sharon to Avenge Yassin

By Reuters

Palestinian terrorist group Hamas said Wednesday it had the right to target Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to avenge Israel's killing of its leader but reassured the United States it was not in the firing line.

Israeli tanks thrust into a Gaza refugee camp, keeping up the pressure as Washington warned Americans in the Middle East and North Africa of a heightened attack threat after Israel's assassination of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin Monday. Amplifying the mood of spiraling conflict, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, Yassin's successor in Gaza, urged attacks on Israelis everywhere -- a call Hamas officials later said was limited to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Israel has vowed to take out Rantissi and other militant chiefs. Ignoring international condemnation, it says it is defending itself against the masterminds of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis. Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was quoted as telling pan-Arab al-Hayat daily in Damascus that Hamas now had the right to "hunt down the big Zionist heads" including Sharon.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed faction of Palestinian chieftain Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement, echoed the pledge. "Wherever you find a Zionist kill him without hesitation," a masked al-Aqsa leader, identifying himself as Abu Qusai, told Reuters, repeating an order issued to the group's members. Sharon's office declined to comment.

In what Palestinians called their biggest gathering ever, hundreds of members of the Hamas military wing paraded in Gaza City to mark the end of the formal mourning period for Yassin. "Await a unique, unprecedented attack the likes of which the enemy has never seen," the masked master of ceremonies said in a speech, to cheers from onlookers numbering tens of thousands.

Arafat urged calm. "I am against any attacks on civilians, on Israeli civilians and Palestinian civilians," he said. But Israel, which stepped up its hunt for militants after a double suicide bombing by Hamas and al-Aqsa last week killed 10 Israelis at a strategic port, dismissed Arafat's appeal. "This is the most ludicrous statement ever made by the master of duplicity and the mastermind of the suicide bombing culture," said Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin. Israel accuses Arafat of fomenting violence. He denies it.

Teen Bomber Planned to Blow Himself Up

By & Israel Faxx News Service

The 14-year-old suicide bomber apprehended near a Shechem checkpoint Wednesday told army officers that he was not just carrying the bomb belt under his shirt, but was planning to blow himself up. He told army officials he was given NIS 100 (about $20) and promised sex when he arrived in heaven.

"Blowing myself up is the only chance I've got to have sex with 72 virgins in the Garden of Eden," Hussam Bilal Abdu from the Nablus area, told his Israeli investigators after being caught wearing an eight kilogram explosives belt. "They told me that this was the only way." he told his captors, adding that he had been bullied at school for his poor academic performance and that he had wanted "to be a hero."

According to IDF Lt. Col. Guy, the commander of Paratrooper Battalion 202, explained that if the bomb had passed undetected, the teenager would have tried to perpetrate an attack inside Green Line Israel. Since that was not the case, he did try to trigger the bomb against soldiers at the checkpoint but it failed to detonate. Guy praised the sharp eye of his soldiers, who undoubtedly prevented yet another suicide bombing attack.

The troops talked him into taking off his explosives vest at gunpoint. Abdu's surrender televised internationally, came nine days after a Palestinian porter of 12 was detained there on suspicion of trying to smuggle through a bomb and then freed after soldiers determined it was put into the boy's bag without his knowledge.

Abdu's mother voiced astonishment at her son's arrest. "Hussam left home this morning to school, and this was the first we hear of what happened," Tamam Abdu told Reuters from the family home in Nablus, just north of Hawara. "This is shocking. To use a child like this is irresponsible, forbidden."

The boy's brother, Hussam Abdu, said his brother was mentally slow. "He doesn't know anything, and he has intelligence of a 12 year old."

Dore Gold, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said "No matter how many times Israel learns of the use of children for suicide bombings, it is shocking on each occasion. Israelis do not understand how Palestinians are willing to sacrifice their own children in order to kill ours."

The boy became shy, asking troops, "Do I have to take my clothes off here?"

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