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Week-Old Infant Injured in Negev Car Accident

By Nir Hasson

A week-old baby girl was moderately injured Wednesday in a car accident in the Negev in the south of the country. Police believe that the accident, at the exit from Mitzpeh Ramon toward Be'er Sheva, happened when the father of the infant fell asleep at the wheel, went off the road and flipped over. The mother was holding the baby at the time to feed her when the accident happened. The baby was thrown out of the car from the impact. She was taken to Be'er Sheva's Soroka Medical Center and was found to be suffering from bruises to her body and head. Her parents were lightly injured in the crash and also taken to the hospital for medical attention.

Sharon Loses Likud Vote on Coalition Talks With Labor

By Bloomberg News

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lost a Likud Party vote Wednesday to continue talks aimed at bringing the Labor Party into his government. A resolution sponsored by Sharon's opponents in Likud against the discussions with Labor won by a vote of 843 to 612, Likud spokesman Shlomo Dahan said in a telephone interview.

A second resolution by Sharon supporting talks with all ``Zionist'' parties was defeated, with 753 voting in favor and 765 opposed, he said. The vote by about 1,500 delegates who attended a party convention in Tel Aviv came after Sharon, 76, assailed his Likud foes as ``irresponsible'' and said they were preventing him from leading the country.

Sharon is trying to widen his coalition after defections by the National Union Party and the National Religious Party in June over his plans to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, where about 1.3 million Palestinians live. The departure of the parties cut Sharon's support in Israel's 120-seat parliament to 59. Sharon needs Labor to help move his Gaza plan forward and to ensure passage of the 2005 budget and other legislation.

Arafat Promises to Reform Palestinian Authority

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem), Ha'aretz & ANI

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat has acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority has made "mistakes" and he promised to correct them. In a speech to Palestinian lawmakers in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Arafat said some of his officials have made unacceptable mistakes and abused their power.

"There were wrong actions by some institutions, and some were irresponsible and misused their positions," he said, adding no one is "immune from mistakes, starting from me on down." But he did not name any other individuals nor did he provide any details of the nature of those mistakes and abuses. The remarks were his bluntest since unrest erupted in the Gaza Strip in July. It was a rare admission by the Palestinian leader that he himself had made mistakes.

Arafat also acknowledged major failures in enforcing law and order in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and pledged to support efforts to improve the situation. He said, "We need to move together to correct and reform all the mistakes." But he made no mention of specific actions to be taken.

Arafat has come under growing international criticism for failing to reform the Palestinian Authority, particularly its security services, which are seen as corrupt and ineffective. But perhaps the most serious criticisms he has faced have come from within the Palestinian community.

Despite the calls that he relinquish some control over institutions, in particular the Authority's security apparatus, he has maintained his tight grip. Arafat's appointment last month of one of his relatives to a senior security position in the Gaza Strip sparked violent protests and was followed by a wave of kidnappings. Arafat was forced to reverse the appointment.

During his address to the Palestinian legislature, Arafat also called for Palestinians to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails by taking part in a day of fasting. About 1,500 of the estimated 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike for improved conditions on Sunday.

The terrorists' hunger strike continues for its fourth day - although some leading terrorists feel that they need not starve as "intensively" as their underlings. Marwan Barghouti, head of the Tanzim terrorist group who considers himself a potential candidate to succeed Arafat, was photographed Tuesday sneaking a well-balanced meal in his prison cell, while his fellow terrorists have not had a bite since Saturday night.

Israel Prison Service officials, who are closely monitoring the strike to ensure that no one collapses or dies, said that Barghouti is not alone, and that at least 10 other top terrorists - leaders of the hunger strike - have taken advantage of their solitary confinement to grab a quick bite. "Once again we see that in Palestinian society, the corrupt leaders send the ordinary people to fight to the death, while they themselves take special privileges," Prison Service spokesman Ofer Lefler said.

Barghouti was among the organizers of the hunger strike. Prison Service officials said they brought him a full meal yesterday and left it at the opening to his cell. They saw him pull it in, then cover the windows with newspaper, and begin to eat - while looking around to make sure that no one was looking. Prison Service officials were able to photograph him, however, noting also that they later gathered his empty utensils.

Israeli officials plan to barbecue meat outside the prison cells so as to tempt the terrorists to give up their hunger strike. "Among the various methods we plan to employ is holding barbecues outside the walls of the affected prisons," the report quoted an Israeli Prisons Service spokesman as saying.

Israeli Missile Strike Hits Gaza City Building

By VOA News

Witnesses said an Israeli helicopter fired missiles Wednesday at two buildings in Gaza City. There were no casualties reported. The Israeli military said it hit two workshops. One of the shops was a motor parts factory belonging to the family of a suicide bomber who blew herself up in January, killing four Israelis. The Israeli military frequently attacks such workshops, saying Palestinian militants use them to manufacture weapons for attacks on Israelis.

Israel said it was also responsible for an explosion in an apartment in the Gaza Strip that killed five Palestinians and wounded seven others, four of them critically. Palestinian hospital officials say the presumed target of the attack, Ahmed Jabari, survived with leg wounds. The dead were identified as Jabari's son, his brother, his son-in-law, his cousin and a relative of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, the former Hamas leader who was killed in an Israeli missile attack in April. An Israeli army statement said only that its forces "targeted a senior Hamas terrorist."

U.S. Says No Troops Training for Iraq are in Israel

By Reuters

The United States rejected an Israeli newspaper report on Wednesday that its troops were currently being trained by the Israeli army in counter-insurgency tactics for use in Iraq. But the U.S. embassy in Israel said it would not comment on any previous exercises with forces in the Jewish state -- a very sensitive issue for U.S. forces fighting Islamist insurgents in Iraq.

The Jerusalem Post said U.S. army units were being trained at the Adam special forces school near Modi'in in central Israel on guerrilla and urban warfare tactics developed by troops fighting a nearly four-year-old Palestinian uprising.

It did not say what its source was, how many soldiers were involved or how long they would spend there. "After completing their training, the units will return to Iraq," the English-language daily said.

But a U.S. embassy spokesman told Reuters: "The report is false. There are no U.S. troops in Israel conducting exercises with the Israeli army...From time to time the United States and Israel conduct cooperative exercises but as a matter of policy we don't go into the details."

The Israeli army said it did not comment on cooperation with foreign armies. Reuters reported last year that U.S. generals were studying Israel's tactics against Palestinian militants for use in Iraq.

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