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Public Security Minister Sets Parameters for Mass Arrests


Public Security Minister (Likud) Gideon Ezra has announced guidelines that will be employed during the expected mass arrests of Gush Katif residents and other disengagement opponents. Ezra stated that regulations do not permit imprisoning children under 2 with their mothers, but exceptions will be made in cased the mother is nursing her child. He added that in cases when both parents are arrested, arrangements would be made for the release of one of them to ensure there is a parent taking care of children, adding there are alternatives including house arrest.

Palestinians Take Israeli Barrier Issue to UN Security Council

By Peter Heinlein (VOA-United Nations)

The top Palestinian diplomat at the United Nations has accused Israel of using its planned pullout from Gaza as a cover for expanding West Bank settlements and extending a wall around Jerusalem. Israel's envoy dismissed the charge, and urged Palestinian leaders to focus on eradicating terrorism. A regular Security Council briefing on the Middle East Thursday became a forum for charges and counter-charges about Israeli and Palestinian actions and intentions.

Senior U.N. envoy to the region Alvaro de Soto opened the session with a note of cautious optimism. In his first presentation to the Council, he hailed the forthcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, saying it overshadows all other issues. But Arab nations asked to bring up another matter: the Israeli cabinet's approval of final details of a separation barrier that will cut off more than 50,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem.

Palestinian U.N. representative Somaia Barghouti charged Israel with using the Gaza withdrawal to divert attention from the barrier extension, and for expanding settlements in the West Bank. "While the international community is focusing its efforts on the success of Israel's exit from Gaza and some areas in the north of the West Bank, Israel, the occupying power, is taking accelerating steps to expand its expansionist colonialist plan through expanding colonial settlement, accelerating the building of the wall and isolating the occupied part of Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank."

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman immediately issued a sharp reply. He called it "almost cynical" that the Palestinian delegate would criticize the barrier at a time of deteriorating security. He defended the planned extension, calling it a necessary defensive measure. "The reality is that the fence works," he said. "It saves hundreds of lives. There has been a reduction of over 90 percent in successful terrorist attacks, a 70 percent reduction in citizens killed, and an 85 percent reduction in the number of wounded - all of which can be attributed directly to the effectiveness of the security fence."

Israel Ponders Early Gaza Withdrawal

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli officials say the government is considering an early withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, following three days of mass anti-disengagement protests that tied up thousands of security forces. The prospect of an early withdrawal could well be discussed with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrived in the area Thursday, for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would support a decision to move up the timetable for the Gaza disengagement. Olmert told Israel Radio such a move might be wise, in light of recent protest rallies, which have tied up security forces, sapped their energy and created obstacles in the daily lives of all citizens.

Opponents of the withdrawal have staged a variety of protests, from blocking roads and thoroughfares and handing out orange colored ribbons to motorists to this week's mass rally when an estimated 20,000 protesters walked toward Gaza - hoping to reach the settlement block of Gush Katif and prevent its dismantling. An equal number of security forces were mobilized to stop the march. Demonstrators and police faced off for three days at Kfar Maimon, in southern Israel, before the protest fizzled and most of the demonstrators returned home.

By Thursday morning, a few hundred die-hard protesters remained at the site. Police also arrested 250 disengagement opponents, Wednesday night, for trying to enter the Gaza Strip to get to Gush Katif. The dismantling of the 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four small ones in the northern West Bank was initially to begin in mid July, but was then postponed so it would not coincide with a traditional Jewish mourning period. The new date was set for mid August.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Thursday the Palestinians have made their preparations and are ready to take over - whenever Israel pulls out. Speaking in Ramallah, Qureia said the problem is that the Palestinians have to guess at Israeli plans because of the lack of coordination.

The disengagement issue tops the agenda for talks with Rice. She holds talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the main aim of her visit is to ensure that the disengagement stays on track. She cut short her trip to Africa to come here - a decision made last week amid rising Israeli-Palestinian violence, as well as fighting between Palestinian security forces and Hamas militants in Gaza.

Maccabiah Ends with Lavish Ceremony


The 17th Maccabiah Games came to a close Thursday evening with an extravagant ceremony at Jerusalem's "Sultan's Pool." Earlier, the participants gathered at the Western Wall and then marched en masse to the event's venue.

Education Minister Limor Livnat thanked the participants and called on them to make aliyah and strengthen the Jewish nation. Prime Minster Ariel Sharon made a similar plea in the opening ceremony. Olympic judo medallist Arik Zeevi walked on stage with a young female judoka; the two expressed their hope for achievement in sports and peace in our time.

Divas Ronni Duani and Ninet Tayeb belted out two of the country's hottest hit songs, while the Air Force band reminded the audience that no official ceremony in Israel is complete without representation from those who secure our borders. The ceremony was hosted by top model-actress and former MTV Europe VJ Becky Griffin, who spoke of her parent's immigration to Israel, and by TV star Rodrigo Goldberg, who gave a personal account of the hardships involved in making aliyah.

The most poignant part of the evening was the special tribute to Oren Almog, the child who lost his sight in the terror attack at Haifa's Maxim restaurant two years ago.

Almog, who lost his brother in the attack, said, "You can see me, but I cannot see you; yet still, I can feel the special Maccabiah atmosphere. After all that I have been through, I know that even if they hurt you, they can't beat you," he said. "On this evening I say that if we remain united and maintain the Beyachad (togetherness), no one will be able to defeat us."

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