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Abbas: Palestinians Ready for Peace 'Road Map'

By VOA News

Newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians are ready to carry out their commitments under the internationally backed "road map" peace plan. Speaking to a group of local and international Christian clergymen in Ramallah Thursday, Abbas said there are mutual obligations in the "road map," and that Palestinians are serious about implementing their part. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is expected to meet with Abbas within days, has stressed that peace negotiations cannot be revived unless Palestinians crackdown on militants.

5 Israelis Killed in Palestinian Attack on Gaza Crossing

By Ha'aretz &

Israel Air Force aircraft struck a Hamas-linked target in the Gaza Strip late Thursday night, soon after Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Karni Crossing in the Strip, killing five Israelis and wounding four others.

Two suicide bombers detonated a 330-pound bomb adjacent to a wall between the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the commercial terminal at 10:50 p.m., then entered the Israeli side and set off their explosive belts, killing themselves in the blast. Other Palestinians subsequently opened fire on Israeli personnel at the crossing with mortars and light arms. Three of the wounded Israelis were in serious condition and one was in moderate condition, according to Magen David Adom ambulance teams. There have been reports that as many as 15 Israelis were wounded.

The attack, which came just four days after the election of Mahmoud Abbas, could be seen as a challenge to the new Palestinian Authority chairman, who has often condemned suicide bombings as harmful to the Palestinian cause. Significantly, three militant groups claimed joint responsibility for the attack, Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Abbas' Fatah movement.

Israel and Washington have said that the first test of Abbas as a leader will be his willingness and ability to rein in terror groups. The Sharon government has set strong PA action against terror as a pre-condition for resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Shortly after the bombing at Karni, witnesses said an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a medical center in Dir al-Balah refugee camp run by an Islamic charity, Al Salah, with links to Hamas. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the air strike.

MDA teams managed to evacuate five casualties in armored ambulances but heavy exchanges of gunfire between Palestinians and Israel Defense Forces soldiers prevented further evacuations. The wounded were evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.

The terminal, closed to Palestinian traffic at this hour, was relatively empty at the time of the attack. However, there is a permanent presence of Israeli civilian border authority personnel and a small IDF force permanently stationed at the crossing. The large bomb used to demolish the dividing wall between the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the crossing was apparently smuggled into Karni in a vehicle.

Expulsion-Refusal Spreads Within IDF


The phenomenon of IDF soldiers declaring their intention to refuse orders to expel Jews from their homes continues to spread. IDF officers from the Adam military training installation met with Commander of IDF Ground Forces, Maj.-Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, informing him that many of the soldiers under their command would refuse to carry out orders to expel Jews from their homes. This, according to a report in Thursday's Yediot Achronot Hebrew daily.

According to the report, one company commander from the Haruv battalion told Ron-Tal: "I have many soldiers in my company who say point-blank that they are unable to carry out an evacuation order." Ron-Tal reiterated that the IDF would not tolerate the phenomenon of disobeying orders. "There is a political struggle and I understand that people want to influence the political decisions, and in a democratic country that is fine. It must be done, though, working within the law," he told reporters.

"The most important thing in my eyes is not to bring the IDF into this controversy," added Ron-Tal, "There are elements that are trying hard to bring the IDF into this, but we will try with all our strength to make sure that it doesn't happen. Bringing the army into this struggle could have a dramatic negative effect on the security of this country and we will not lend support to such a thing."

Some of the 34 IDF officers who declared their opposition to soldiers being placed in the position of having to choose between their moral and religious beliefs were relieved of their posts last week. Kedumim Mayor Daniella Weiss, head of one of the largest communities in Samaria, has openly called on soldiers to refuse expulsion orders, echoing a call by leading religious-Zionist Rabbi Avraham Shapira, a former Chief Rabbi.

A soldier who called upon the members of his IDF unit to refuse to destroy two homes in the Yesha community of Yitzhar last week was released from IDF jail Wednesday evening after the Supreme Court ruled he had not received a fair trial. The soldier insisted that the expulsion of Jews from their homes constituted an illegal order.

U.K.'s Prince Harry Apologizes for Wearing Nazi Costume

By Reuters and Ha'aretz

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, responding Thursday to British Prince Harry's wearing a Nazi uniform to a party just two weeks before the 60th anniversary of the death camp's liberation, said the use of Nazi symbols was intolerable.

The 20-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth has apologized for wearing a swastika armband and an army shirt with Nazi regalia at a costume party on Saturday, but rights groups and politicians said he should do more. Photographs of the younger son of the late Princess Diana and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles in Nazi attire appeared in the Sun newspaper in Britain, as well as in Israeli papers and on Web sites around the world.

In the latest of a string of gaffes, Harry, the 20-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth, wore a red and black swastika armband and an army shirt with Nazi regalia at the party at a friend's house on Saturday. The incident heaped more embarrassment on the royal family and Harry, third in line to the British throne and due to train at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst this year.

Queen Elizabeth is due to host a reception for survivors of the Holocaust on January 27 before representing the nation at the Holocaust Memorial Day National Event. Harry said in a statement that he was sorry if he had caused any offense. "It was a poor choice of costume and I apologize," he said.

However, Shalom said, "I think anybody who tries to pass it off as bad taste must be made aware that this can encourage others to think that perhaps that period was not as bad as we teach the young generation in the free world."

Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean Marvin Hier urged Prince Harry on Thursday to go to Auschwitz to learn about Nazi crimes. "This was a shameful act displaying insensitivity for the victims, not just for those soldiers of his own country who gave their lives to defeat Nazism but to the victims of the Holocaust" Hier said in a statement.

"We strongly urge Prince Harry to accompany the British delegation on January 27th to the Auschwitz death camp to commemorate 60 years since liberation. There he will see the results of the hated symbol he so foolishly and brazenly chose to wear."

Holocaust Memorial Day will be marked in Britain for the fifth time on January 27th. Queen Elizabeth will attend main event at Westminster Hall in London while prince Edward will head the British delegation to the ceremonies at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland, marking the 60th anniversary for the liberation of the concentration and death camp.

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