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55 Israelis Unaccounted For in London


Officials fear 39-year-old former Jerusalem resident Anat Rosenberg may be among those killed on board the bus targeted in the wave of London attacks. She was talking to her live-in boyfriend John Falding on her cellular telephone when the number 30 bus exploded. She has not been heard from since and has not appeared in the hospitals among the wounded. Rosenberg arrived in London 18 years ago and returned to Jerusalem where her parents live but decided to live in London. According to Falding, she was terrified of the bus bombing attacks in Israel. Fifty five Israelis remain unaccounted for.

Israel Approves Construction of Barrier Around Jerusalem

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Israel's Cabinet has approved construction of its controversial security barrier around Jerusalem. The Cabinet decided that construction of the separation barrier around Jerusalem would be accelerated. Israel began erecting the controversial barrier two-years ago to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out, but legal obstacles and bureaucracy have slowed construction. Now the government means business: Planners have until September first to complete preparations.

The Cabinet did not explain why it is allowing the fence to cut through the united capital within Jerusalem's borders. Dividing the city will leave one-quarter of Jerusalem's Arabs psychologically linked to Samaria while receiving citizens' services from Jerusalem. It also will leave Prime Minister Ariel Sharon open to charges that he has gone back on his promise never to divide the capital.

Mark Luria, from an Israeli lobbying group, called "Security Fence for Israel," said it's about time. "As long as there are any breaks in the security fence surrounding Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem is at risk, indeed all of Israel is at risk," he said. "I think the most important thing right now is to finish the fence as soon as possible, and to make this whole area secure."

Palestinians are furious because the barrier cuts off the West Bank from East Jerusalem, which they want as the capital of a future state. Four Arab neighborhoods will be outside the barrier, separating 55,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from jobs, schools and hospitals.

Jerusalem resident Rim Abu Snein told VOA that she would be on the wrong side of the barrier. "I think the wall is a very, very bad thing for the Palestinian people," said Rim Abu Snein. "You know, they put all the Palestinian people in big prison." Saeb Erakat, the chief PA negotiator with Israel, stated that the Cabinet decision "is a very critical development which has the potential to destroy the entire peace process."

Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was named responsible for establishing government services, including hospitals and schools, on the other side of the fence, which will be a tall concrete wall in the area of Aqab. Separating the Arabs from Jerusalem will encourage a closer relationship between them and Arabs in Samaria, which the Palestinian Authority (PA) wants to make part of a new Arab state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Dividing the city with a fence will make it easier for the PA to argue that East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, is not part of Israel.

With prospects for a final peace agreement looking dim, the barrier is part of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to unilaterally redraw Israel's borders. Next month, he will pull settlers and soldiers out of heavily populated Gaza, and in the future, the West Bank barrier will extend for 437 miles. The aim is to build a strong Jewish majority within Israel's borders.

IDF Spokesman: Paratrooper Brigade Commander Gave Soldiers the Wrong Date


Soldiers in the Paratrooper Brigade living in Gush Katif were summoned to a meeting with the Brigade Commander, Yossi Becher, Sunday, where he instructed the soldiers that they are to go on vacation for three weeks, starting this Thursday, and to return in three weeks on July 22 after they have packed all of their belongings. They are not to return to their homes after that date.

The soldiers expressed their shock and asked the commander if he expected them to abandon their families during this difficult period. The commander's response was to promise that the army would provide them with a place to sleep. He added that he is not interested in anyone's political views and expects them to fulfill his orders.

The IDF spokesman reacted by explaining that the commander gave the wrong date and the correct date will be given to the soldiers at a later time.

In a related case, a non-commissioned officer belonging to an IDF teleprocessing unit was sentenced to 21 days in a military prison after he had refused to be assigned to a regiment that is expected to participate in the evacuation of settlements during the upcoming pullout. The officer said he would not be able to participate in the pullout for medical reasons, and an examination in prison proved the officer was indeed suffering from physical ailments.

Israel Finalizes Timetable for Gaza Pullout

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel has finalized the timetable for next month's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. But, Jewish settlers are gearing up for a mass protest.

Israel's forced evacuation of 21 Gaza settlements is scheduled to begin on Aug. 17. Officials said that on Aug. 15, Israeli troops would go from house to house and inform residents that their presence is illegal and they must leave. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is playing hardball. Those who refuse to leave could lose tens of thousands of dollars in government compensation.

Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan told VOA that nothing could stop the pullout. "It is a done deal because the mainstream Israelis have decided that this is what they want," he said. Schueftan said now it's a question of credibility. "Israel that is incapable of carrying out what its parliament has decided is no longer the state of Israel that we have known for 57 years, it's a different state, and it's a state in existential danger from within," he said.

But the settlers are not giving up the fight. They're planning to bring tens of thousands of people out for a three-day march on Gaza later this month. Settlement leader Effi Eitam said the aim is to get the nation "to rethink this horrible plan which will be able to destroy the Israeli democracy, the Israeli unity, and may cause political as well as security disaster for the state of Israel."

IDF Officer Tells Arab Paper That Israel is Preparing More Withdrawals


Government ministers have been hinting for months that the withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria would not be the last. Now a senior officer says the IDF is preparing for more pullbacks.

A senior IDF officer interviewed by London Arab newspaper Al Shark al Awsat said that Israel's "disengagement plan" represents the first installment in a series of withdrawals and other one-sided measures, culminating in a Palestinian state in 2008.

Israel is currently undertaking to expel Jews from their homes and hand over their communities in Gaza and northern Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. That withdrawal is scheduled to take place on Aug. 17. The officer told the paper, "The disengagement plan spells out one-sided measures that will be completed by 2008 when the Palestinians will be responsible for managing their affairs within the borders of a territory we will give, and nothing more."

While not indicating how Israel planned to implement further withdrawals from Judea and Samaria, the senior officer said the state ultimately created from the withdrawals "will not be the independent state the Palestinians expect."

The officer warned that if the PA does not extend law and order to the territories evacuated by Israel in Gaza and northern Samaria, Israel would cease to coordinate further measures with the PA and "take only unilateral steps and deal with its security problems as it sees fit." The officer also sharply criticized PA chief Mahmoud Abbas for visiting Syria and meeting with the heads of various PLO terror factions there, as well as for not using his authority as the democratically elected leader of the Palestinians to take substantive measures to combat terrorism.

Abbas praised Syria's role in the Middle East on Friday. "Syria has a significant role in both Arab and international arenas, so we realize her stance which is supporting us and preserving the Palestinian unity to be able to reach aspirations," he said. Syria is on the State Department's list of countries that support terrorism and has been accused by the Bush administration of supporting Iraqi insurgents who have been fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

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