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Egypt's Last Queen Dies in Cairo

By VOA News

Egypt's last queen died Wednesday in Cairo at the age of 72. The official Middle East News Agency reported that Nariman Sadeq was admitted to an intensive care unit at a Cairo hospital Sunday, after an operation to remove a blood clot from her brain. Born in 1934 to a family of modest means, Sadeq became the second wife of King Farouk just 14 months before he was forced to abdicate during the 1952 revolution led by Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officers. She produced a son and heir, Ahmed Fouad, who was the last Egyptian to hold a royal title.


Syria, Iran Plan Common Front

By Reuters

Iran and Syria, both locked in rows with the United States, said on Wednesday they would form a common front to face challenges and threats. ''We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats,'' Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said in Tehran after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari. Otari told reporters: ''This meeting, which takes place at this sensitive time, is important, especially because Syria and Iran face several challenges and it is necessary to build a common front''.

Syria's ambassador to the US, asked by CNN what the common Front with Iran entailed, stressed that it was not an anti-American alliance and said Syria was trying to improve its relations with Washington. ''Today we do not want to form a front against anybody, particularly not against the United States,'' Imad Moustapha said. ''Syria is trying to engage constructively with the US... We are not the enemies of the US, and we do not want to be drawn into such an enmity,'' he added.

Russia said on Wednesday that it would sell a new air defense missile system to Syria, overriding Israeli concerns, but insisted the weaponry was only for close-range use and would not upset the balance of military force in West Asia.


Knesset Passes Key Gaza Pullout Bill

By VOA News & IsraelNationalNews.com

Israel's parliament has approved the government's plan to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. By a vote of 59 to 40, Israeli lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to compensate the 8,500 settlers who would be affected by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan. Lawmakers rejected proposed amendments to call a referendum on the withdrawal and delay evacuation orders.

The Sharon government hopes to implement its plan by September, over strong opposition from hard-line Israeli nationalists. The plan could still be derailed if the government does not win passage of a state budget by March 31 - a failure that would cause its automatic fall from power.

It is now Israeli law that Sharon can order the Gush Katif and northern Shomron areas closed in preparation for their evacuation and abandonment, and the expulsion of their Jews. A final Cabinet decision on the actual implementation of the uprooting is expected this coming Sunday.

Another important change that the government proposed and succeeded overwhelmingly in passing rules out the possibility of holding a referendum on the disengagement question. The vote on this issue was 72-26. The bill as originally formulated states that it will come into effect 21 days after its passage in the Knesset. The purpose of this proposed delay was to enable a referendum to be decided upon and legislated during this period. The government, however, objected to this idea. Sheetrit claimed that there is no chance for a referendum, and that there is therefore no reason to delay the law and perpetuate the residents' uncertainty.


Knesset Member Uzi Landau: "Sharon Plans Altalena-Type Actions"

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is trying to prepare public opinion for violence along the lines of the Altalena against Yesha residents and their supporters. So said anti-disengagement Likud leader MK Uzi Landau.

Speaking with Arutz-7, Landau expressed the fear that Sharon was planning to take forcible and violent measures against those who oppose the withdrawal/expulsion plan. "The recent statements by Sharon and his men against the settlers are designed to justify using force against them, in the style of the Altalena," said Landau.

The Altalena was a ship of Jewish refugee/volunteers and weapons, organized by Menachem Begin's Irgun in June 1948. David Ben-Gurion ordered the fledgling IDF to attack the ship with shells and gunfire on the shores of Tel Aviv; 16 Jews aboard the ship, and three others, were killed.

Landau voted against the disengagement plan in the Cabinet, even though he knew it would cost him his ministerial position in the Cabinet. Sharon promptly fired Landau after his vote last October; Sharon had previously fired Ministers Effie Eitam and Benny Elon simply for their intention to vote against his plan. Landau quoted statements today such as, "We'll break their bones" and "The settlers are worse than terrorists," that have emanated of late from the Prime Minister's Office.


State Attorney to Consider Case of Righteous Gentile

By Ha'aretz

A group of Holocaust survivors have won a partial first victory in their struggle to prove that a man who has been awarded the title of Righteous Gentile actually did not help Jews during the Holocaust.

In 1995, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, recognized Stefan Wrzemczuk of Ludmir, Ukraine, (now Vldimir Volynsk in Poland) as a Righteous Gentile for claiming to have saved some 100 Jews, from the Ludmir ghetto in 1941 and '42, when he was 7 and 8 years old. He said he together with his mother moved the Jews 75 miles away through forests and swamps and delivered them safely to the partisans. Based on his claims, Wrzemczuk was brought to Israel, settled in Jerusalem, and began to receive a pension from the state.

However a group of survivors of the Ludmir ghetto has been trying for the past seven years to convince various bodies that the story is not true. Their appeals, including one to the High Court of Justice, were rejected until two weeks ago, when a response came from State Attorney Eran Shendar. "I have passed the material on for legal examination by the state comptroller," Shendar wrote Ze'ev Raveh, a spokesman for the group. "If the comptroller discovers suspicion of criminal activity, the matter will be transferred to the police."

The struggle by the group of Ludmir survivors, which now numbers 16, to have Wrzemczuk stripped of the title of Righteous Gentile stems from more than their desire to prevent "Ukrainian imposters from living off of public money," as Raveh wrote to Shendar. It is also a struggle in principle over historic truth.

After the Holocaust, only 85 of the original 22,000-strong Ludmir Jewish community survived, almost all of whom came to live in Israel. Ze'ev Raveh and another Ludmir survivor served in a Jewish partisan unit of about 100 fighters who helped smuggle Jews out of Ludmir. The survivors say they never met anyone who was saved thanks to Wrzemczuk, and they asked Yad Vashem to obtain testimony from survivors to justify awarding Wrzemczuk Righteous Gentile status. They claim the institution dragged its feet and was uncooperative.

In unofficial meetings, the survivors said that a number of senior Yad Vashem officials admitted that the Wrzemczuk received the title due to "an embarrassing mistake, a failure, and even deception," but that he was being given "the benefit of the doubt."

Eventually the survivors petitioned the High Court of Justice. "A reading of the reasoning of the commission [for the selection of Righteous Gentiles] keeps us awake at night," a member of the group, Moshe Margalit, wrote the court in the name of the survivors. "What more facts could be brought, more than the testimony of survivors, the books, the research? Those who were left in graves in Ludmir or in the Kokhov Forest, with no gravestone?"

The Ludmir survivors said they feel relief that the matter has gone to the State Comptroller, but they now have another concern. "We are all elderly people," said one survivor. "I heard that it takes years for the comptroller to check something, and that is very bad. I'll tell you something harsh. I heard there were people who said, `leave the problem alone, biology will do the job.'"


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