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Israeli Troops Begin Incursion into Northern Gaza

By VOA News

Israeli troops and tanks entered the northern Gaza Strip Sunday; hours after Israel ended an operation against Palestinian terrorists in southern Gaza. The Beit Hanoun operation began soon after IDF forces withdrew from Khan Younis after a three-day assault. Israel says both raids were aimed at stopping the terrorists from firing rockets and mortar shells at Israeli settlements and towns. The Israeli military actions come one week before Palestinian elections to replace the late Yasir Arafat.

Guard Killed In Wave of Terror Near Be'er Sheva


Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade terrorists claimed Sunday afternoon they murdered a security guard at a Jewish National Fund park north of Be'er Sheva, the third murder in the area in a month.

The body of the victim, Vladmir Rubin, 66, of Kiryat Gat, was discovered Sunday morning at the Beit Guvrin National Park where he worked as a security guard. An official of the company which employed Rubin said, "We estimate that it is most probable that a gang with (Arab) nationalist motives" is responsible.

Police said he was shot in the head, and his pistol and several bullet shells were found nearby, but police added that motives for the killing still are unclear despite the announcement by Al-Aqsa terrorists. The terror gang, associated with the ruling Palestinian Authority Fatah party, said the murder was vengeance for Israel's killing terrorist leaders in Jenin, Shechem and Tulkarm. "The guard had an emergency alarm with him and could have used it if (he knew) his life were in danger," added Yitzik Levy, a director of the company. He added that Rubin knew his job well. Police noted the well-liked guard was alone at the time.

The park is about five miles east of Kiryat Gat, a city north of Be'er Sheva. Police did not rule out a connection between Rubin's murder and the recent murder of two other Israelis in the area but so far "have not found a direct link between the three killings," according to Lachish District police official Effie Moore. Two weeks ago terrorists stabbed to death a mother of four children at the entrance of her home in a nearby moshav. The following day, another victim, also a guard was gunned down near Moshav Shekef, which overlooks the Beit Guvrin Park.

Terrorists Fire Rocket Near Power Plant


Arab terrorists Saturday continued to bombard Israel with mortar shelling and rockets, one of which exploded near a major power facility. A Kassam rocket fell Friday south of the Ashkelon power plant, just north of Gaza and within Israel's pre-1967 borders.

Critics of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan have pointed out that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would bring the power plant within striking range of Kassam rockets. The Ashkelon facility is Israel's major source of electricity besides the facility near Hadera, north of Tel Aviv.

Israeli Researchers Develop Vaccine That Enables Recovery of AIDS Patients' Immune System


A Hadassah University Medical Center research team has developed a vaccine that significantly strengthens the body's immune system against the autoimmune aftereffects of HIV infection, a breakthrough that could dramatically make an impact in the treatment of AIDS patients.

Close to a million cases of AIDS have been diagnosed in the U.S. since the beginning of the epidemic, with the HIV/AIDS virus claiming over 20 million lives. Another 39 million people are currently estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

The researchers found that although treatment with the widespread AIDS cocktail of medications kills the virus, the immune system continues to kill healthy cells; this research focuses on developing a vaccine that would arrest this autoimmune destructive process. The results of this study were published in the latest issue of the prestigious Journal of Clinical Virology.

"The HIV virus starts killing white blood cells in the body," lead researcher Dr. Rivka Abulafia-Lapid told ISRAEL21c. "The AIDS cocktail has been proven to be effective at fighting and treating the virus, but we realized three or four years after patients received the cocktail that their immune system does not always recover. We investigated what was behind this, and found that there's an autoimmune process that continues unabated despite the fact that the patient is taking the cocktail."

New drugs called protease inhibitors, which first approved in 1995, revolutionized the treatment of patients infected with the AIDS virus. These drugs usually are taken with two other drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors. The combined drug "cocktail" - also known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)- has helped change AIDS in the last few years from being an automatic death sentence to what is now often a chronic, but manageable, disease. However, while the virus disappears in many patients, their immune system remains dangerously ineffective against foreign elements, and many of the patients end up dying due to related complications.

"In about 50% of the cases, despite the disappearance of the virus, or at least the virus being below detection level, the immune system does not bounce back," said Abulafia-Lapid.

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, infects a type of white blood cell called CD4, an integral component in the body's immune system. As HIV attacks and destroys CD4 cells, the weakened immune system becomes less able to fight infection and disease. HIV can also cause AIDS, the last and most severe stage of HIV infection.

The Hadassah study was conducted between 1998 and 2002 with an additional two-year monitoring period. Seven patients participated in the study; five of the seven patients responded positively to the vaccine developed by the research team. For most AIDS patients, the central immune system does not recover even if the HIV virus is almost eliminated through treatment with the cocktail of medications. The Hadassah vaccine was designed to stop the continuation of the autoimmune process.

Initially, the researchers identified CD8 cells, which are involved in the autoimmune process and are supposedly responsible for destroying CD4 cells in the immune system. In the laboratory, the scientists isolated the CD8 cells from a sample of the patient's white blood cells and mixed them with CD4 cells, and showed that these CD8 cells were involved in the killing process. At this stage, preparation of the vaccine involved neutralization of these CD8 cells and preparation of portions of 10 million cells each to be used by injection under the skin in order to trigger a vaccination against these harmful cells.

"We were able to locate the white blood cells responsible - which were programmed to kill the good cells in the body and we were able to isolate them in clinical trials," said Abulafia-Lapid. "We cultured them in a lab setting, and saw that they only grew destructive cells. We killed them, injected the dead destructive cells within the form of a vaccine. This teaches the body to see these cells as foreign and they start fighting them and destroying them.

"Our aim was not to prevent infection by the virus but to strengthen the immune system and use our vaccination treatment as a complement to the antiviral medication (HAART). Since the autoimmune process continues even after elimination of the virus, the vaccine that we have developed is directed to stop this destructive process. In other words, our vaccine complements the cocktail of medications, to stop the body from continuing to destroy itself.

"Now, we plan to conduct extended clinical trials. We've shown that the vaccine is non-toxic and safe. It's not an easy treatment but we've shown that patients benefit from it," said Abulafia-Lapid. "What I envision is making the disease like a chronic infection - the cocktail treats the virus and we help the immune system to recover and allow the patient to continue his life and have his immune system fight any new invaders."

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