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Israel Launches Probe into Death of Palestinian Girl

By VOA News

Israeli military prosecutors have opened an investigation into the shooting death of a 13-year-old Palestinian girl. An army spokesman said an officer might have used excessive force when he killed Iman al-Hams in the southern Gaza refugee town of Rafah. At the time, soldiers fired at the girl because they suspected she was carrying explosives. In an interview broadcast Sunday, however, unidentified Israeli soldiers said the unit commander went up to the girl, who had already been shot, and repeatedly fired his automatic weapon at close range to ensure she was dead. The director of the hospital in Rafah, Dr. Ali Musa, said the child was hit with at least 15 bullets, most in the upper body.

Sharon to Present Gaza Withdrawal Plan to Parliament

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would present his controversial Gaza Strip withdrawal plan to parliament on October 25. In remarks opening a new session of parliament, Sharon laid out a timetable for legislative action on his disengagement plan.

If it is approved, he said he would submit additional legislation the first week of November on the compensation to be given to Jewish settlers who would have to relocate. The controversial Sharon plan calls for a complete withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip and a partial withdrawal from the West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister promised "constant supervision" during the planned pullout, and said the government reserves the right to adapt the plan to defend Israelis and prevent terror. Sharon also said he was still committed to the U.S.-backed "road map" for peace with the Palestinians, but he said that until the Palestinians showed themselves to be partners for peace, Israel would be forced to take its own steps.

Opposition Labor Party leader Shimon Peres said, after the speech, that he would vote for the disengagement plan only if steps are taken to implement the road map. Prime Minister Sharon did not directly address recent calls that the withdrawal be put to the voters in a national referendum, but he suggested that would not be the route he would advocate. He said decisions taken by the parliament are the key to a broad national consensus.

At least 10 to 15 members of Sharon's own Likud party are expected to vote against the disengagement plan. Other influential Likud leaders have expressed their reservations about the plan so it is not entirely certain they how much support there is for the move. The National Religious Party (NRP) and National Union Party, former allies in his coalition government are expected to vote against it.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continued its operations in the Gaza Strip. A local leader of the militant group Islamic Jihad escaped an Israeli attack on his home. Mohammed Sheikh Khalil was not home at the time. Since Israel began its operation, dubbed Days of Penitence, on September 30 more than 100 Palestinians have been killed, including nearly 30 civilians.

Syria: Mossad Agents Apprehended


Reports from Syria state four Mossad Intelligence Agency agents, Arabs, are in custody after trying to assassinate Hamas politburo leader Khaled Meshal. According to the report, there are three males and a female in custody.

While the government is not releasing a formal response to the latest report from Damascus, senior officials in Jerusalem are denying the Syrian report, pointing out a similar report was released by the Syrians last month.

In 1997, Mossad agents were arrested in Jordan after injecting Meshal with a lethal substance. In a deal arranged by former Mossad Director Ephraim Halevy, the antidote for the drug was flown to Amman and Meshal was saved. In addition, then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu release Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. In exchange, Jordan released the Mossad agents from custody.

Hilton Chain Asked to Compensate Sinai Victims

By Ha'aretz

An Israeli attorney demanded Monday that the Hilton hotel chain compensate the victims of last Thursday's Sinai terror attacks who were staying at the Taba Hilton. The attorney, Moshe Zingel, sent a letter to the hotel chain Monday, asking it to accept responsibility for the security and belongings of the guests at its hotels.

Zingel, who is representing a small number of the attack victims, including some foreign nationals, said in his letter to Theo Keutzer, deputy president of the Hilton chain in West Europe and the Middle East, that his clients paid for their holiday and therefore the hotel was obliged to ensure their personal safety and belongings. "You failed to fulfill this elementary duty," Zingel wrote, "and on the night of October 7, the said explosion occurred and my clients suffered serious harm to their persons, physical and mental health, as well as their property."

Zingel is demanding that the hotel chain conduct an assessment of the compensation and damages that would not be paid out to his clients under Israeli law or insurance policies, noting that these sums could reach tens of millions of dollars. If the chain fails to respond to his letter, the attorney wrote, he would be forced to take legal action.

The Taba attack occurred when a bomb-laden vehicle crashed into the foyer of the Taba Hilton. Twin blasts took place almost simultaneously at a nearby Sinai resort area. Thirty-four people were killed in the attacks, among them 13 Israelis. Security sources have told Ha'aretz that the bodies of all the Israelis missing since the blast have been located. The bodies of six Israelis killed in the Taba Hilton attack were transferred across the adjacent border crossing into Eilat Monday morning, thus completing the task of returning all the bodies to Israel for final identification and burial.

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