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Abbas to Meet with Palestinian Terrorists in Gaza

By Israel News Faxx

Palestinian officials said newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would meet with militants in the Gaza Strip later this week in an attempt to persuade them to end attacks against Israel. Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said Abbas would make the trip to Gaza Wednesday to press militant groups to agree to a cease-fire that Palestinians said must be reciprocated by Israel. The foreign minister said the Palestinian leader would also try to persuade the groups to participate in parliamentary elections on July 17. Abbas, a former Arafat Fatah associate, who raised the finances that paid for the massacre of Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics, has denounced violence from both sides for undermining the peace process.

Israel to Increase Pressure on Palestinian Militants

By Benjamin Sand (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered the military to step up operations against Palestinian terrorists. Sharon's directive ordered the military to step up its operations, without restrictions, in order to prevent Palestinian attacks.

The order is directed mainly at the Gaza Strip where the murderers have intensified their attacks against Israeli targets in recent weeks. Late Thursday, they launched a well-coordinated assault on a major commercial crossing point between Gaza and Israel proper, killing six Israelis. Israel sealed off the Gaza Strip on Friday and cut off all contact with the Palestinian Authority.

On Saturday and Sunday terrorists fired mortars and rockets into Israeli settlements in Gaza and into the Israeli town of Sderot. Israeli forces attacked the killers Saturday in central and southern Gaza, killing at least six people.

The violence escalated as newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in. Sharon insisted there would be no contact until Abbas cracks down on terrorists, whom Abbas previously referred to as "freedom fighters."

"Israel will not return to a situation where it is negotiating while its civilians are being killed. That is untenable," said Sharon's senior advisor, Dori Gold, who spoke with VOA. Abbas has said he is pursuing negotiations with the militants, but would not use force to rein them in.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the Israeli action unfairly targets Abbas before he has had an opportunity to try to address the situation. "They decided to suspend talks with him, what kind of logic is this? The man did not even resume [sic] his office yet; don't you give him a chance?"

Meanwhile, Abbas also faces a wave of political challenges stemming from last Sunday's election. Forty-six election officials have resigned their posts to protest alleged irregularities in the voting. The officials maintain they were forced, some at gunpoint, to keep the polls open an extra two hours, giving Abbas supporters more time to vote. International monitors said the last-minute changes increased voter turnout, but did not undermine the elections legitimacy.

Chabad Rabbi Pronounces Death of Disengagement


Rabbi Sholom Wolpe, a prominent member of Israel's Chabad hassidic rabbinical community, has released the strongest statement yet in opposition to the Gaza Disengagement Plan. Wolpe called on soldiers and police to refuse orders to forcibly remove Jews from areas of the Land of Israel, stating one must be willing to face jail or other punishment to avoid any involvement in such an act.

Wolpe said that one must even be willing to sacrifice one's life to avoid any involvement in removing Jews from their homes, stating that taking part in such an act is considerably worse than eating pork on the Yom Kippur Day of Atonement.

Responding to the statements, a Chabad spokesman pointed out that while Wolpe is a well-known figure in the Chabad community, he is not a member of the Chabad Rabbinical Council and his views do not represent those of the Chabad movement.

Right Wing Refuseniks: 10,000 Signatures Collected

By Ha'aretz

The Defensive Shield headquarters which is spearheading efforts to prevent a planned evacuation of Gaza Strip and northern West Bank settlements, announced Sunday that it has collected 10,000 signatures of IDF soldiers and reservists, who will refuse orders to take part in the evacuation of Jewish settlers.

The group, headed by Noam Livnat, said they would hand the petition to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. The signatures were divided among several petitions. Some petitions stated the signatories would actively refuse orders to evacuate, while others stated the signatories would avoid carrying out such orders.

Rabbi Shalom Dov Halevy, one of Chabad's leaders in Israel, pledged dozens of rabbis to sign on a halachic ruling stating that one is better off dead than allowing the evacuation of Gush Katif and northern Samaria. According to the ruling, "participating in any action endorsing the disengagement, is several times worse than eating pork on Yom Kippur," since the disengagement forces "millions of Jews to face a life-threatening situation."

The ruling states, that a soldier or policeman ordered to take part in the implementation of the disengagement "is obligated by Torah law to put his life on the line, or in the least risk imprisonment and torture," but not to follow such orders. The rabbis did, however, say that no physical of verbal violence should be directed at security services or settlers.

Vatican Lets Israel Borrow Ancient Papers

By South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The Vatican will loan the work of Moses Maimonides, one of Judaism's most celebrated rabbis and sages, to Israel this year in a gesture meant to improve relations between Catholics and Jews. Jewish community leaders said they are ecstatic to have the opportunity to study the Maimonides document, and at least three other medieval manuscripts.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, a professor at Yeshiva University in New York, said the gesture by the Vatican "strengthens the bonds between Jews and Christians. We are asking a favor, they are showing us a kindness, to borrow these items," he said. A delegation of about 160 rabbis and cantors worldwide, including Blech, and American laypeople will meet with Pope John Paul II this month to thank him for years of goodwill, including working out an agreement to display the priceless Jewish artifacts for the first time in Israel.

The work by Maimonides was written by a scribe in the 1400s, 200 years after his death, and is cherished as a one-of-a-kind record that covers the rules of life, such as marriage and other codes of behavior. Opponents who considered Maimonides a heretic burned many of the original works. Maimonides, also known as Rambam, the 12th-century doctor and sage in Egypt whose works include the first codification of Jewish law, is considered one of the most influential of all Jewish thinkers.

The Maimonides manuscript to be loaned includes his "major work on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, the source for all subsequent works on the codification of the entire oral and written laws of the Torah and Talmud." There is no known recorded history showing exactly how or when the Vatican acquired the writings, Blech said.

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