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Israel pulls soldiers out of Bethlehem



Published: Tue, August 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Israel pulls soldiersout of Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- Palestinian police were back on the streets of Bethlehem early today after Israeli forces left the town as part of a trial that could lead to further Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank.

In the first security accord between the two sides in more than a year, Israel agreed to hand control of Bethlehem and parts of the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinians. Israel said it would pull out of other West Bank population centers if Palestinian police try to prevent terror attacks from being launched from test areas.

But the understandings could quickly unravel. An Israeli soldier and two Palestinians were killed in fresh violence early today.

Early today, an Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinian sniper fire aimed at an army post near the Jewish settlement of Gadid in the Gaza Strip, the army said. Hamas took responsibility for the killing.

A short while later, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in the nearby town of Khan Younis by army fire, hospital officials said. It was not clear if the boy was hit during an exchange of fire that followed the attack on the army post.

In the West Bank, one armed Palestinian was killed and at least one injured in an exchange of fire between Israeli troops and local militiamen in the Tulkarem refugee camp, the army said.

Archbishop steps aside

SYDNEY, Australia -- The archbishop of Sydney announced today he would temporarily step aside during an investigation into allegations that he sexually abused a child.

Archbishop George Pell is accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy when he was training as a priest in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, the church said in a statement. The year the alleged incident took place was not immediately known.

"The alleged events never happened. I repeat emphatically, that the allegations are false," Pell said in a statement. "To allege that I am ... personally implicated in this evil is a smear of the most vindictive kind."

Pell said he would take leave while an independent investigation is conducted. He said he was confident his name would be cleared.

Dikes hold in Germany

MAGDEBURG, Germany -- The swollen Elbe River peaked early today in the eastern German city of Magdeburg, which was spared a major evacuation effort as dikes held back the flood waters that have left a trail of devastation upstream.

Authorities considered moving some 20,000 people out of vulnerable areas of the city, but decided against the move, confident that sandbag-augmented levees would hold back the water.

The river peaked in the early hours at 22 feet -- nearly a foot lower than expected -- and was falling slowly today.

Officials in Magdeburg, about 85 miles west of Berlin, credited a 19th century emergency weir that diverts some water to the east of the city with lowering the Elbe 3 feet to a manageable level. Emergency workers were trying to repair a dike on the canal that gave way early today and save villages outside Magdeburg from flooding.

Debate on Koran

WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court Monday tersely turned down an attempt by a conservative Christian group to halt the University of North Carolina from using a text on the Islamic holy book, the Koran, to teach new students.

Without elaborating on the reasoning behind its decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said that lawyers for the Family Policy Network had "failed to satisfy the requirements" for halting the study program. The decision upheld a lower federal court ruling in Charlotte, N.C., last week allowing the university to use the book.

The lawsuit had become a dividing line between conservatives who questioned the use of uncritical texts on Islam in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks by Al-Qaida terrorists and civil libertarians who feared a chilling effect on teaching on college campuses.

Even as lawyers relayed word of the ruling from Richmond, 180 UNC professors and administrators were sitting down Monday with more than 4,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students on the Chapel Hill campus, debating the introduction to the Koran that had been assigned as a summer reading project.

Combined dispatches




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