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US Official: Iranians Witnessed North Korean Missile Tests

By VOA News

A senior Bush administration official said Iranian representatives witnessed North Korean missile tests earlier this month. In an appearance before a Senate panel, Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill underscored U.S. concern about growing ties between the two countries with nuclear ambitions. Under questioning by Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), Ambassador Hill told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Iranian representatives were on hand to witness North Korea's missile tests on July 4.

Two IDF Choppers Crash in North


Two Apache (Cobra) combat helicopters crashed in the Ramot Naftali area, near the Koach junction south of Kiryat Shmona. Rescue forces have been mobilized to the scene and casualties have been reported. The circumstances of the incident are unclear and are currently been checked. The IDF believes the crash was caused by an accident.

A witness told Ynet that he and his friends noticed an aircraft descending. "I told my friends, 'look something is falling out of the sky, it's going to crash.' After a few minutes I heard ambulances and I saw IDF forces and police heading to the area where the helicopter fell," the witness said.

The crash was also seen well in Metula. Shahar Gamilel recounted: "A few of us were sitting on the porch in my father's house, where you can see Emek Hahula and the Kiryat Shmona area. At a certain stage I saw a strong flash in the sky and balls of fire began to fall. After a few seconds an explosion was heard and then there was quiet."

11 Israeli Soldiers Wounded in Several Clashes with Hizbullah

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

At least 11 Israeli soldiers have been wounded in several clashes with Hizbullah terrorists on the Lebanese side of the Israel-Lebanon border. Hizbullah also continued firing rockets into northern Israel Thursday as Israeli warplanes carried out strikes in Lebanon.

Israeli ground troops were involved in a series of clashes with Hizbullah as the Israeli Army continued limited ground operations in Lebanon. Israel is warning residents south of the Litani River, about 18 miles inside Lebanon, to leave the area.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel would use all means at its disposal to push Hizbullah out of south Lebanon. He said Israel has no intention of occupying Lebanon, but Israel would not retreat from defeating Hizbullah.

Israel's senior army commander said the fighting could go on for an extended period of time. Israeli warplanes carried out more strikes against targets in Beirut's southern suburbs Thursday as U.S. Marines and other western military forces continued evacuations of thousands of their citizens from Lebanon.

Hizbullah continued rocket attacks against northern Israel, striking the cities of Tiberias and Haifa, but causing no casualties.

Israel Sees Lebanon Conflict Linked Directly to Syria, Iran

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

For over a week now - day after day - Israeli missiles and artillery shells have struck deep into Lebanon, while Katyusha rockets rained down on cities and towns of northern Israel. Israel says its aim is to retrieve two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah last week and to eliminate the threat the militant group poses to Israel.

The kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah July 12 and the kidnapping of another soldier by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza a few weeks earlier may have been the spark that ignited the fighting, but Israeli and American leaders clearly believe that the militants were acting under orders from Syria and Iran.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was blunt in making that connection when he spoke before parliament Monday evening. "The terror organizations working out of Lebanon and Gaza are nothing but sub-contractors working under authorization and encouraged and financed by governments supporting terrorism, governments that oppose peace. There is an evil road running from Tehran to Damascus," he said. Olmert accused Syria and Iran of stirring up trouble, using Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza to do so.

Retired Israeli Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror agreed. He said Syria wants to regain its influence in Lebanon after its troops were forced out by Lebanese and international pressure over a year ago. For Iran, he says, it is all about international pressure and nuclear ambitions. "When you look at Iran and the threats from Iran as a response to the efforts to stop Iran from being nuclear, you say, OK, how they will do it? When you look at the tools the Iranians have today, Hizbullah is the most important tool," he said.

Nasrallah Speaks On Arab TV

By Ha'aretz &

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah appeared on Al Jazeera television Thursday night, proving that he is alive and well. The interview was recorded but his references to Thursday's events indicated it was done so after the Israeli Air Force bombed a meeting place of leaders of the terrorist organization.

Nasrallah said that the leaders were not in the targeted area. He also reiterated demands that Israel release Arab prisoners in return for soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah terrorists last week

Israel Air Force fighter planes dumped 23 tons of explosives on a bunker believed to be housing the senior Hizbullah leaders Wednesday night According to intelligence received by the IDF, the bunker, located in the Bourj al-Barajneh area of southern Beirut, housed the terror organization's most senior leadership. The intelligence was considered sufficiently reliable to justify a massive attack at around 8 p.m. and another one at 11. Dozens of planes took part in the attacks, and the building was totally destroyed.

Annan: Israel Uses 'Excessive Force' in Lebanon

By Reuters

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday called for an immediate end to hostilities between Israel and Lebanon to "prevent further loss of innocent life and the infliction of further suffering."

A quick end to the fighting also would allow aid workers to reach those in need and would "give diplomacy the chance to work out a practical package of actions that would provide a lasting solution to the current crisis," Annan told the UN Security Council.

A UN team he sent to the region in search of ways to ease the crisis has concluded that a sustainable cease-fire agreement would be "difficult to achieve at this time," requiring instead a temporary cessation of hostilities, the UN leader said.

It was clear the Lebanese government had no advance knowledge of the July 12 Hizbullah attack in which terrorists entered Israel to capture two Israel Defense Forces soldiers, he said.

While Hizbullah said its actions aim to defend Palestinian and Lebanese interests, they "in fact do neither," Annan added. "On the contrary they hold an entire nation hostage, set back prospects for negotiation of a comprehensive Middle East peace."

While acknowledging Israel's right to self-defense, he accused it of "excessive use of force. Whatever damage Israel's operations may be doing to Hizbullah's military capabilities, they are doing little or nothing to decrease popular support for Hizbullah in Lebanon or the region, but are doing a great deal to weaken the government of Lebanon," Annan said.

He called for the following proposals to be carried out in parallel: The captured Israeli soldiers to be transferred to Lebanese government authorities, under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross with a view to their repatriation.

An expanded peacekeeping force to be established on the Lebanese side of its border with Israel, working with the Beirut government to strengthen its army. A "mechanism" to be established of key regional and international figures to monitor and guarantee implementation of whatever agreement is reached.

An international conference to delineate Lebanon's international borders with Syria and with Israel, including the disputed Shebaa Farms area. The conference would also focus on ways to help carry out Security Council resolutions calling for the disarming of militias operating on Lebanese soil and for the Lebanese government to extend its authority across all its territory.

Israel's ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman spoke to reporters after the Security Council meeting and said that he has reservations regarding Annan's insinuations of Israel's guilt. "Without the mention of terror there is no solution for the situation." He also expressed his astonishment at the fact that "neither Iran nor Syria were mentioned in [Annan's speech], two countries that make up the central axis of terror. He who wants to end terror should turn to Syria and Iran."

Stranded Americans Must Pay for Evacuation


Some Americans seeking to flee war-ravaged Beirut are complaining the U.S. government is requiring them to pay for their evacuation to the island of Cyprus some 75 miles away.

Distressed relatives informed WND that American citizens who call the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to register for evacuation are told about the requirement. Anyone who cannot afford to pay at the time of evacuation will be issued a promissory note, according to U.S. officials.

"I call this an absolute shame," one relative wrote. "We give billions and billions (of dollars) to help other nations; we spend billions and billions on wars and we have to charge our own trapped few thousand citizens to move them from Beirut to Cyprus. … That is what I call unbelievable!"

State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told WND there is no provision in law for the U.S. government to pay for evacuations of private citizens, although it pays for the travel of federal employees and their families. She said payment by private U.S. citizens is required since the State Department website for some time has warned against travel to Lebanon due to security concerns.

Iran President Asks Germany for Help on Zionism

By Reuters

A German government official said on Thursday that letter written by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asks her to help solve the Palestinian problem and deal with Zionism.

"There's nothing about the nuclear issue (in the letter)," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the extreme sensitivity of the issue for the German government. "It's all related to Germany and how we have to find a solution to the Palestinian problems and Zionism and so on. It's rather weird," The official, who has seen the letter, said.

Iranian students' news agency said on Wednesday that Ahmadinejad had written to Merkel, but until Thursday officials had not spoken about the contents.

Zionism is a political movement that supports a homeland for the Jewish people in the area that the British referred to as its Palestine Mandate, now the state of Israel.

Berlin's relations with Ahmadinejad have been complicated by his denial of the Holocaust, in which Germany's Nazi regime killed six million Jews, and his call for Israel to be wiped off the map. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany punishable with up to five years in prison.

"It's extremely touchy (for the German government)," said the official, adding that the government did not yet know if or how it would respond. "There are a lot of propaganda phrases about Israel and the Jews inside." In May Ahmadinejad wrote President George W. Bush an 18-page letter discussing religious values, history and international relations. In it, he took swipes at Israel and at the United States.

In February, Merkel compared Ahmadinejad's statements and stance to Adolf Hitler's rise to power when he and his Nazi party began threatening to exterminate European Jewry. "Remember that in 1933 many people said it was just rhetoric," Merkel said.

240 N. American Jews Move to Israel Despite War


In what organizers have billed "the ultimate solidarity mission," hundreds of Jews from North America chose to pack their bags and leave the comfort and stability of the United States and Canada for the rocketed State of Israel Thursday.

Aliyah enthusiasts were on hand to welcome the new olim. "Everything is better in Hebrew" read one sign

The olim [new immigrants to Israel] were greeted by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Efrat's Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who himself came on Aliyah more than two decades ago together with many members of his congregation,

"Israel is not Disneyland. We don't just come to Israel when it is fun and sun," said Rabbi Riskin. "Israel is our motherland - we come to our mother when she needs us. Israel needs you but it is a two-way street - each of you also needs Israel. What anyone does in the Diaspora is a footnote in our history, what is being written here is the chapter heading."

Knesset opposition leader Netanyahu pointed to the crowd, saying, "You are the best answer to Hizbullah!" He added that Aliyah is the very essence and lifeline of Zionism, "which never envisioned a world where people would stop attacking us, but a world where we would defend ourselves… build cities and create industry." He welcomed the olim by saying: "Our answer to Nasrallah is you!"

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