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Hamas Leaders to Meet Russian Officials

By Ha'aretz

Hamas leaders have been invited to visit Russia for talks on Friday, March 3, Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying on Monday. Hamas' exiled political leader Khaled Mesh'aal will head the delegation, the terrorist group said in a statement posted on its Web site. Russia's invitation to Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction, has upset Israel and the U.S. by challenging their campaign to isolate Hamas unless it renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist.


Israel Says No Peace Talks With Abbas

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's foreign minister has ruled out peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying he would be unable to enforce any peace deal with Israel because the Islamic terrorist group Hamas now controls the Palestinian Authority.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Israel Radio on Monday that the minute President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Hamas to form a new Palestinian government; the Palestinian Authority became illegitimate in Israeli eyes.

Israel's foreign minister said Israel does not want to be in a situation where it is dealing with a moderate Mahmoud Abbas who is powerless to deliver a peace agreement or enforce existing agreements the Palestinian Authority has with Israel. Livni's comments echoed those she made on Sunday, following talks with U.S. Mideast envoy David Welch.

According to media reports, the U.S. envoy proposed a policy under which the United States would work directly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas instead of Hamas, which controls the Palestinian parliament. U.S. officials have said they would not recognize Hamas as long as it refuses to recognize Israel and disarm, but they said they remain committed to supporting Abbas.

As head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Abbas is charged with holding peace talks with Israel, while the Hamas-led Palestinian Cabinet is responsible for the daily administration of the Palestinian Authority.

In an interview with the Palestinian daily Al Quds, Hamas' prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh said his government would not negotiate with Israel, but would work to open talks with Israel concerning what he described as day-to-day issues.

Meanwhile, Abbas said his comments in a British television interview that quoted him as saying he would resign if unable to pursue peace with Israel were "completely untrue." Abbas said the translation of his comments into English was not accurate.

In a similar incident, Hamas leader Haniyeh said he was misquoted in a Washington Post interview that said Hamas would recognize Israel if it withdrew to its 1967 borders. The Hamas leader said he never discussed the issue of recognition of Israel, but only of a long-term truce with the Jewish state.


EU Approves Aid for Palestinians

By Lisa Bryant (VOA-Paris)

The European Union agreed Monday to unblock short-term aid for the financially struggling Palestinian Authority. But, it remained unclear whether European financing would continue after the new Palestinian cabinet is sworn in.

The roughly $144 million in European Union aid is expected to cover just the essentials for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority. A large chunk is earmarked to pay the Palestinian government's energy bills. An even larger slice would be funneled through the United Nations to pay for things like education, health and social services in the Palestinian territories. Only a small percentage, about $21 million, would go to paying Palestinian government salaries.

The short-term assistance from the EU, the Palestinian Authority's largest donor, came as Palestinian officials were scrambling to find funding to bankroll their government. Israel recently cut off transfers of roughly $50 million a month in tax payments to the Palestinians. And Washington called on the Palestinian Authority to hand back another $50 million in donations.

Both moves took place following the victory of the radical group Hamas in Palestinian elections. The organization, which so far refuses to recognize the state of Israel, is on both the U.S. and European Union terrorist lists. Europe and Washington want Hamas to renounce violence and pledge to work toward a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict. But the EU has postponed a final decision on cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority, noting a Hamas cabinet has not yet been sworn in.

On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain, for one, would follow World Bank recommendations to resume short-term funding to the Palestinian Authority. "The issue before the European Union is whether we resume aid to the existing interim authority, not to any Hamas government that has yet to be sworn in." The funding is expected to keep the Palestinian Authority afloat for another two months.


PA TV Star: Mother Upset Her Daughter Failed as Suicide Bomber

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Palestinian Authority controlled television is still broadcasting human interest pieces highlighting parents' support for their children's decisions to become suicide bombers.

In spite of PA pledges not to incite, an interview broadcast last week featured the mother of Wafa Al-Bas, the 21-year-old Arab woman from Gaza who was arrested at the Erez Crossing in June 2005 wearing a 20-pound (9 kg) bomb under her clothes.

The PA TV interview with Al-Bas' parents, which aired on February 20th, features her mother saying the event was hard for her - not because her daughter was on a suicide mission, but because she was arrested on her way to carry it out.

Al-Bas intended to bomb Be'er Sheva's Soroka Hospital outpatient clinic, where she had been receiving regular treatments for serious burns on 45 percent of her body resulting from a gas stove explosion in her home.

The failed bomber later told Israeli TV that her greatest wish was to kill 30 to 50 Israelis, including children. The hospital attack would likely have killed or maimed the very Israeli doctor who had saved her life.

Al-Bas' mother said in the PA TV interview that she knew that her daughter had wanted to be a martyr since she was a little girl, but had not encouraged her - not because she opposed the idea of suicide bombing, but because Wafa was female. "If it was a boy, I would have supported, but since she is a girl I discouraged," she said.

Palestinian Media Watch recorded and translated the interview: Interviewer: "How did you receive the news of Wafa's arrest?" Wafa's mother: "When I received the news, it was hard for me. Hard."

Interviewer: "Excuse me, was the hardship in that she failed in the martyrdom-seeking operation and was arrested, or in the arrest itself?" Wafa's mother: "The arrest itself. Her wish was martyrdom, Wafa, since she was a little girl." Interviewer: "Meaning, you hoped she would be a martyr?" Wafa's mother: "Her wish was to be a martyr."

Interviewer: "Did you encourage her?" Wafa's mother: "To tell you the truth, I didn't encourage her. I talked to Wafa about the issue, about not agreeing to it because she is a girl. Were it a boy, I would have supported, but since she is a girl, I discouraged."

"The message given to Palestinian society from broadcasts like this is that suicide bombing is not wrong," said PMW Director Itamar Marcus. "Indeed, it is seen as an honor and a joy to raise a child to be a suicide bomber - at least if that child is a son."


World Owes Israel $23 Billion

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Israel has become a large-scale international lender in the past three years, with global sources owing Israel $23 billion at the end of 2005.

According to a Globes report, global debt to Israel rose 92% over the past year. Most of the debt ($22.7 billion) is to the private sector and Israel banks are owed $3.1 billion. The public sector, though, led by the Israeli government, continues to borrow, in order to recycle debts and cover budget deficits.

Israel's gross external debt was $75.5 billion in 2005, a drop of $250 million. "The balance of Israel's external liabilities totaled some $153 billion at the end of December 2005, a rise of $16.5 billion in 2005," a Bank of Israel statement read. "This is a positive development, caused by sizeable foreign direct and portfolio investment.

"The increased profitability of the business sector, the contraction of the budget deficit, the improved geopolitical situation and the accelerated pace of privatization (the sale of Bank Leumi and Israel Discount Bank) enabled Israel's economy to attract an unprecedented amount of non-resident investment and to benefit from the global trend of international flows of capital into the emerging markets."


Nazi Style Helmets Conquer Europe

By YnetNews.com

Israeli soccer fans set to flood Germany in the coming summer for the 2006 World Cup may be in for an unpleasant surprise: thousands of fellow European soccer fans will apparently show up for the matches wearing helmets styled on Second World War Nazi uniforms.

The helmets, mass-produced by a Dutch manufacturer, are made in different colors and bear slogans to fit the different countries attending the tournament.

Designer Weno Geerts said they were meant as a joke. "We just want to support our team and tease the Germans. Nothing else," he explained. Geerts said the Holland-based company had received only a few complaints and expected to sell another 100,000 helmets before the finals this summer.

"They are meant for the supporters who watch the games on television, and in the pub, and also those who are traveling to Germany," he said.

The manufacturer of the helmets said the German police recently informed him they intend to allow fans to wear the helmets during the games, because they were not adorned with Nazi symbols. "Germany should prepare for an invasion," he said jokingly.


Jackie Chan to Visit Israel?

By YnetNews.com

The Foreign Ministry is working on getting action movie star Jackie Chan to visit Israel, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday. The move is part of the Ministry's efforts to convey the message that visiting Israel is safe and to boost tourism from Asia.

The move was initiated by The Foreign Ministry and Israel's Consulate General in Hong Kong. Chinese authorities lately branded Israel as a "favorable country for tourism," but the number of Chinese tourists coming to Israel remains low as many Chinese are deterred by security concerns.

Israel's Consul General in Hong Kong, Dan Ben-Eliezer, came up with the idea and in talks with other officials it was decided that Chan is the most suited personality for the mission. Israelis and Jews working in the U.S. film industry have been holding talks on behalf of Israel with Chan, who currently lives in Hollywood.

No date has been set for the visit. Chan has starred in a number of blockbusters and is very popular in Israel as well.


Group Hopes to Buy Purim Costumes For Gush Katif Refugees

Will They Wear Haman Masks or Sharon Masks?)

By IsraelNationalNews.com

An initiative ahead of the Jewish festival of Purim seeks to provide costumes for children forcibly removed from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria last summer.

"What we often take for granted can be very important to someone else," said Judy Rozenstark of the Gush Etzion town of Efrat, who recounted how she came up with the idea. "In a conversation that I had with some children of Gush Katif, the children asked me, `Can you get us a costume for Purim?'"

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel, heard of the idea and offered his organization's assistance. Also backing the project are Sharon Katz of Voices Magazine in Jerusalem, Phil Rosenblatt of the Amazing Savings chain and NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

The initiative, dubbed Kostumes 4 Kids of Katif, will purchase a costume in time for Purim for every $18 donation.


Speak Hebrew Like a Native

By Israel News Faxx Services

Davka Corporation announced the release of the Talking Hebrew Word Book, an interactive Hebrew language software program that teaches over 600 modern Hebrew phrases and expressions.

Each word is shown on-screen with an accompanying picture or cartoon and is read back in crisp, Israeli-accented Hebrew. One of the program's unique features is the record-and-playback section, which allows the user to record his or her own voice, and compare pronunciation with the native Israeli speech used that is used in the program.

According to Susan Schwartz, president of Davka Corporation, the program is suitable for both Hebrew language students and tourists planning a visit to Israel.

"Many people learn the rudiments of Hebrew, but don't know basic vocabulary – such as how to ask directions on a Jerusalem street, or where to find the post office – or how to pronounce the words they do know.

"The Talking Hebrew Word Book includes phrases and words on a wide variety of everyday topics including transportation, music, eating out, shopping, directions, emergencies, signs, telling the time, sightseeing and more, so it's very practical."

The Hebrew words and phrases are displayed in large Hebrew letters together with the English translation. Individual words and units can be printed from the program, and each section includes two types of quizzes. The Talking Hebrew Word Book also includes a `word-a-day' feature in which a different Hebrew word appears on screen each time the user turns on the computer.

The Talking Hebrew Word Book is compatible with Windows-based PCs and Macintosh computers and is available for $34.95. It is available at bookstores in the US, Israel and Europe, and from www.davka.com/prtwb.



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