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News Briefs

U.S. Officials Try to Sustain Israeli Cease-Fire after Violence


U.S. officials, eager to see calm in the Middle East as they seek a global anti-terrorism alliance, struggled Thursday to hold Israelis and Palestinians to a fragile cease-fire that was threatened by shootings and rising political opposition.

Palestinian gunmen early Thursday opened fire on a family of Jewish settlers traveling near Tekoa, a settlement in the West Bank. A 26-year-old mother of three was killed and her husband badly wounded. Their two toddlers and 4-month-old infant, who were riding in the car’s back seat, witnessed their mother’s death but escaped injury. Five Israeli soldiers and a civilian security guard were injured in shootings in the Gaza Strip later Thursday, and Palestinian officials reported one Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat on Tuesday declared a wide-ranging cease-fire, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon responded by pulling back troops from some Palestinian territory and halting offensive military actions. Both were under enormous U.S. and European pressure to defuse the conflict that has killed about 800 people in the last year.

Yet no sooner had hopes of a breakthrough arisen than new violence put the efforts in doubt. “I am very sorry that the Palestinian Authority has not honored its (cease-fire) pledge,” Sharon said Thursday. In the evening, he convened his Cabinet to decide whether Israel will continue to uphold its end of the bargain. Also up for debate was whether his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, will be allowed to meet with Arafat

Various Groups Begin to Urge Caution in War on Terrorism


The Justice Department’s antiterrorism legislation, which once seemed likely to sweep through Congress on the storm of anger arising out of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, has been slowed as legislators and public interest groups begin to review its provisions. With dozens of proposed changes in criminal and immigration law, the package put together by Attorney General John Ashcroft and his staff has quickly drawn opposition from some members of Congress, as well as a diverse collection of interest groups. Thursday, more than 125 of those organizations joined in a statement warning that legislation and regulations adopted in the heat of anger could “erode the liberties and freedoms that are at the core of the American way of life.” The coalition, whose members range from the conservative Eagle Forum and the Gun Owners of America to the liberal National Lawyers Guild and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called for calm and deliberate action that honors constitutional rightsespecially free speech, and avoids stigmatizing any racial, religious or ethnic group.

Organizations representing Muslim, Hispanic, Chinese, Japanese and Arab Americans joined the alliance, along with such traditional civil rights groups as the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Those differences “are expected to be narrowed” by the time the Senate panel holds a hearing on the measure on Tuesday, a committee spokesman said Thursday. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, told reporters that lawmakers may be able to move quickly on sections of the legislation dealing with changes needed specifically for the current investigation.

Among the most controversial sections are those that would widen the government's ability to detain or deport foreigners. The provision would apply “to all aliens regardless of when they entered the United States or when they committed the terrorist activity,” according to a Justice Department analysis of the legislation.