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Three Arrested at Western Wall Military Ceremony


Three persons were arrested Thursday at the Kotel (Western Wall) after they began waving anti-disengagement signs and shouting during an IDF paratroop brigade swearing-in ceremony. As the soldiers were taking an oath of allegiance, the protestors played over a load speaker a recording of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from a number of years ago calling upon soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate Jews from civilian outposts in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Pope Condemns Nazi Genocide of Jews

By Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI, in his first major address about the Nazi era in his native Germany, on Thursday condemned "the genocide of the Jews," and said humanity must never be allowed to forget or repeat such atrocious crimes.

Speaking exactly one month after his election, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger also quoted from a famous phrase of reconciliation between German and Polish Catholic bishops issued in the 1960s: "We forgive and we seek forgiveness."

Benedict, 78, served briefly in the Hitler Youth during the war when membership of the Nazi paramilitary organization was compulsory. But he was never a member of the Nazi party and his family opposed Hitler's regime. He made his address in the Vatican after a screening of a new, made-for-television film on the life of his predecessor John Paul II, whose native Poland was the site of the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.

He spoke of "the repression of the Polish people and the genocide of the Jews", branding both "atrocious crimes that show everyone the evil that the Nazi ideology had within it." The Nazi period illustrated the "abysses of wickedness that can hide in the human soul", he said. "Remembering such aberrations can only prompt in every upright person the commitment to do everything in their power so that episodes of such inhuman barbarism are never repeated."

Shortly after his election on April 19, Benedict sent a message to Rome's Jewish community pledging to follow in John Paul's path of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation. In his address on Thursday night, Benedict said all of humanity was seriously threatened each time a totalitarian regime trampled on an individual.

"As time passes, memories should not be allowed to pale," he said, speaking in Italian. "They must instead serve as a stern lesson for our and future generations. We have the duty to remind people, especially young people, what levels of unheard of violence the contempt for man and the violation of his rights can reach," he added.

Benedict, who will travel to Germany in August, said he believed it was "part of the divine plan of providence" that two successive popes - John Paul and himself - had lived through the horrors of World War Two on opposite sides of the same border. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, which started the war.

The film the Pope saw in the Vatican's vast audience hall - "Karol --the man who became pope," tells of John Paul's early days and his life until he became Pontiff in 1978. John Paul, who died on April 2, was the first pontiff to visit a synagogue and the first to visit Nazi death camps. He led the Vatican to diplomatic relations with Israel and repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism as a sin against God.

Israel to Respond More Aggressively to Palestinian Violence

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

Senior Israeli officials said Thursday that the military would respond more aggressively to Palestinian attacks. They warned that the current flare-up in violence could delay Israel's plans to pull out of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank this August. The warnings follow an unusually heavy barrage of rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militants and the deaths of two members of Hamas.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has ordered the military to respond more vigorously and use all necessary means to halt attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza.The decision was made during a meeting of military and security chiefs.

Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim also sent a message to the terrorists - stop the attacks or risk collapse of the cease-fire, which has lasted for more than three months, despite some violations.

The deputy minister told Israel Radio that if the militant attacks continue the security forces would respond more forcefully. He said Israel wants calm before its planned disengagement from Gaza and he warned there would be no Israeli withdrawal under fire. The warnings follow a flare-up in violence during the past two days.

Early Wednesday, a Hamas militant was killed, apparently while preparing to plant a bomb along the heavily patrolled Gaza border with Egypt. Later, Palestinian militants launched dozens of mortar shells and crude Qassam rockets at Israeli targets, mostly settlements inside Gaza.

Israel launched a helicopter missile strike against what military officials said was a group of Hamas militants firing more rockets. One militant later died from wounds sustained in the attack.

Tawfik Abu Khufa, spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, blamed Israel for trying to stir up trouble. He said the Israeli helicopter missile attack meant that Israel had already reverted to its practice of targeted assassinations. He accused Israel of trying to provoke violence. Some Palestinian officials are expressing frustration with the militant groups for not sticking to the cease-fire they agreed to, but many also blame Israel for not doing enough to ease conditions for Palestinians.

Israeli officials said the Palestinian Authority has not done enough to crack down on the militants. Some say the current upsurge in violence is also a sign of Hamas flexing its muscle after doing well in recent local council elections. Despite the latest violence, senior officials from both sides have met to try to prevent further escalation.

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