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Moshe Arens Calls Disengagement "a Tragedy" in INR Interview


In an interview with Israel National Radio host Eli Stutz, former Defense Minister Moshe Arens called the disengagement plan "a tragedy for people who going to be torn out of their homes." Arens called the disengagement a "self-inflicted wound" and "the biggest internal crisis that Israel has ever faced. It will leave some serious scars behind. It's going to be very bad, and I'm sorry I can't be more optimistic." On political issues, Arens characterized former Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's resignation as "better late than never" and said that ministers who oppose the disengagement, but stay in the government, will have to share responsibility for the consequences. As far as stopping the disengagement before it's completed, Arens said, "the show's not over." While he said he was not optimistic that the process could be stopped at this stage, he did add "in Israel you never know."

Israeli Gunman Kills Four West Bank Palestinians

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem). *&

An Israeli gunman has shot and killed four Palestinians and wounded at least two others near the West Bank settlement of Shiloh. The shooting occurred as Israeli troops began forcibly removing thousands of Jewish settlers and their supporters from settlements in the Gaza Strip.

The shooter, Asher Weisgan, 38, transported the Arabs to and from work every day. They were in his car after the day's work when he stopped at the guard hutch as he does every day to get their ID cards upon leaving the industrial area. When he returned to the car, he pulled out his gun and shot at the Arabs in his car without any warning or apparent reason. Leaving them there next to the guard hutch, he apparently returned by foot to the industrial area and shot another Arab worker in the factory. The attacker has been taken into custody.

Palestinian officials have called for the Israelis to bring the attacker to justice and Hamas spokesman Mushir al Masri has vowed the crime would not go unpunished. The shooting raised fears of Palestinian retribution that could endanger the current Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. That withdrawal continued throughout the day as thousands of Israeli soldiers and police fanned out across settlements in Gaza to forcibly remove those settlers and supporters who remained defiant.

Israeli security forces managed to overpower Weisgan and took him to Binyamin police station for questioning. Weisgan, who had not previously been known to police, refused to give investigators a motive for the attack. However, Channel 1 television's news program quoted Weisgan as saying that he had carried out the shooting in a bid to stop the disengagement from going ahead.

A close friend of Weisgan, Shvut Rachel resident Shmuel Ashkenazi told Ynet that it was impossible to have known Weisgan would be capable of committing such a crime. "After the incident happened he came to my store and said he had killed his brother's laborers," he said. "He is the last person I would believe could do something like that. He had so many Palestinian friends."

He was fully in control of his actions and knew exactly what he was doing, Ashkenazi said. "He arrived at my store and asked for two things. The first thing he said was, 'make sure they won't harm the guard because I have stolen his gun and the guard is not guilty of anything.' He also requested I take care of his two daughters and then he turned himself in."

Factory Deputy Director-General Ariel Bar-Asher told Ynet there were no prior warnings indicating such an incident. "Even today, they sat together and ate lunch. Asher was one of the Palestinian workers' closest friends," he said. 'He spoke Arabic'

Weisgan coworker Yehoshua Keising said he went home at about 11:30 a.m. but received a phone call right after the incident occurred. "They told me that Asher shot a worker who sat next to him. I returned to work and found out that it was something much bigger," he said. "I identified the three bodies and I'm still in shock. He spoke Arabic and was their friend. About three weeks ago I was angry at one of the Palestinian workers and I shouted at him," he said. "Asher came to me and said, 'do me a favor, stop criticizing him, he's a good guy.'"

In the wake of the attacks, security forces made preparations for possible riots that could break out in Palestinian areas of the territories. In Gaza, Israeli soldiers met with a varying degree of resistance; ranging from pleading and crying to being pelted with water, eggs and paint. Soldiers scuffled with some of the more violent protesters, especially in Neve Dekalim, the largest Gaza enclave. Israeli authorities said the evacuation was going more quickly than expected and could be over in a matter of days, rather than weeks as was originally estimated.

As this crucial phase of the evacuation operation got under way, Prime Minster Ariel Sharon appealed to the settlers and their supporters not to resort to violence against the soldiers and police sent to remove them. "Attack me, blame me alone, I am responsible for this," Sharon said. "It was my decision."

Under Sharon's disengagement plan, about 9,000 settlers will be evacuated from 21 settlements in Gaza and four small ones in the northern West Bank. In addition to defiant settlers, soldiers are also facing resistance from thousands of religious and nationalist militants who have infiltrated Gaza from Israel and some West Bank settlements.

The Hamas terrorist organization vowed to avenge the deaths of the four Arab workers. A spokesman for the terrorists, Moshir Al-Masri said, "This crime will not pass without a severe reaction."

Jubilant Terrorist Groups Celebrate Israeli Retreat


Terrorist groups are all celebrating the implementation of the Disengagement Plan, insisting that their terror attacks brought about the Israeli retreat and would bring about additional pullbacks.

According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centerat the Center for Special Studies, the Palestinian Authority is organizing many celebrations of Israeli retreat, but numerous terror organizations are holding their own, separate celebrations. According to the report, the terror groups are awarding themselves and their terrorist activities the prize for having brought about the evacuation of the Israeli settlements.

The report says that while PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas is speaking about further withdrawals through negotiations, both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are reiterating that they have no intention of disarming, that their weapons are legal and that they intend to continue armed attacks until the total liberation of all Palestine

"We have no choice but to prepare for new rounds of the confrontation to liberate our lands and take back our Jerusalem and our rights," Hamas chief Khaled Mashal said in an interview broadcast by Al-Aalam TV on Monday. Speaking to the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, Mashaal said the withdrawal is "the beginning of the end for Israel."

Last Sunday, Islamic Jihad held a victory procession in Gaza; featuring armed, masked terrorists lauded as heroic liberators of Gaza. The group said it would hold a naval military show on the Gaza beach on Wednesday, in preparation for the opening of a PA seaport in Gaza exempt from Israeli counter-terror monitoring. Hamas also held a large celebratory rally attended by masked, armed terrorists on Tuesday in Khan Yunis.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also claimed to have brought about the Jewish retreat, holding a celebration procession in the streets of Khan Yunis attended by armed terrorists waving rockets. Despite assurances that the disengagement would not be carried out under fire, the withdrawal and expulsion has continued despite several shooting attacks and the firing of three rockets on Gush Katif and central Gaza Jewish communities in recent days.

US Hopeful on Gaza Evacuation Despite Violence

By David Gollust (VOA-Washington)

The United States is condemning acts of violence linked to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The Bush administration has invested a considerable diplomatic effort in support of the disengagement process. Despite Wednesday's violence including a lethal attack by an Israeli settler in the West Bank, U.S. officials are hopeful the withdrawal will go forward and improve the political climate in the region.

The settler attack killed four Palestinians and wounded two others and came in the midst of emotional scenes in Gaza, as Israeli troops forcibly evicted settlers there. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. officials have been in touch with both sides, appealing for calm and urging them to show restraint and to avoid actions that could exacerbate the situation.

He said while the United States supports the Gaza withdrawal, it understands the feelings of those Israelis who have had to give up their homes and relocate. "This is a very difficult moment for these people who are leaving their homes, in some case the only homes that they have known. It's a very difficult time for the Israeli people. But Prime Minister Sharon has made a bold and courageous decision to follow-through with the withdrawal from Gaza and we certainly have supported him in that decision," he said.

McCormack said that despite the difficulty, most Israelis understand that the withdrawal is a step that needs to be taken to realize a more peaceful, stable and secure Israel. He also commended what he said has been a seriousness of purpose on the part of the Palestinians, in working with Israeli authorities in seeing that the withdrawal is a success.

"Part of that is the deployment of Palestinian security forces. And I think that the Palestinian people also understand that this is an important moment, a potentially important moment, an important step through which they might realize a better life, a better life for themselves, a better life for their children," he said.

Two senior U.S. envoys have been in the region working in support of the withdrawal practically full-time. U.S. Army Lieutenant General William Ward has been meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials to coordinate security aspects of the pullout. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch has been handling political issues, with the two parties and with other states in the region including Egypt, which is stepping up security along its border with Gaza.

Israel is withdrawing from all 21 of its settlements in Gaza and from four remote settlements in the West Bank under the disengagement plan, which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first proposed more than 18 months ago as a way to reduce friction with the Palestinians. U.S. officials hope a successful disengagement will be a stepping-stone to progress on the long-stalled international "road map" to Middle East peace.

IDF Film Made to Motivate the Troops Distorts Right Wing


A documentary made by the IDF Education Department to motivate soldiers into expelling Jews from their homes and communities in Gush Katif, presents an inaccurate view of the right wing in Israel.

The film, entitled "Democracy and Me," reviews the controversy that raged in Israel over the Oslo agreements in the mid 1990's, showing right wing protests against the policies of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was gunned down by an assassin in 1995.

The film depicts a photomontage of Rabin in a German SS uniform that appeared at one of the many anti-Oslo demonstrations that took place at the time. The film fails to mention, however, that photomontage was produced by a Shabak (Secret Service) agent, Avishai Raviv, whose job was to deliberately incite the crowd against the government, using whatever means available.

The film also misrepresents the history of Israel's 1948 Independence War. The movie says that there were "exchanges of fire" between the Hagana (the forerunner of the IDF) and the men on weapon's ship Altalena, who belonged to Israel's pre-Independence right wing underground.

In fact, the men on the ship, including Menachem Begin, head of the Etzel underground movement (later to become Prime Minister of Israel in the late 1970s) did not fire back on the Hagana soldiers. A number of Etzel members were killed in that attack which was commanded by Yitzhak Rabin.

Responding to criticism of the documentary by Israel National News, the IDF spokesman said the film was made in accordance with IDF ethical standards and criteria. The spokesman said that depicting the anti-Rabin posters made by Shabak agent Raviv did not violate those standards.

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