Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Four soldiers in Napoleon's army have finally received a proper burial in Israel, 200 years after they died trying to conquer the Old City of Acre from the Turks.

French dignitaries and Israeli veterans of the French army were among those in Acre on Tuesday joining in a toast to the soldiers, whose unsuccessful onslaught was a turning point in Napoleon's failed Middle East campaign.

One of the skeletons was missing its skull, suggesting that the Turks had cut off the soldier's head and displayed it on city walls to scare off the French, one archeologist told the Associated Press.

Napoleon withdrew from the Holy Land on May 20, 1799.

Disabled Israelis block road in protest

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis who must use wheelchairs blocked the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road near the entrance to the capital Monday as part of a dispute with the Finance Ministry over welfare.

The strike by disabled Israelis, which began nearly a month ago, has been an embarrassment for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who made a campaign pledge to help the disadvantaged. Treasury officials have accused the strikers of hardening their stances and refusing to reach a compromise.

Ezer Weizman sent to the hospital again

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Ezer Weizman was hospitalized Monday after suffering severe pain due to inflammation of the gall bladder.

A hospital official said Weizman, 75, is not in danger and is being treated with antibiotics.

After being hospitalized for the same condition two months ago, Weizman was originally scheduled to be admitted this week for the removal of his gall bladder.

Israel successfully tests Arrow missile

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has successfully tested its Arrow missile, which destroyed a dummy Scud missile fired from another boat.

Ilan Biran, the outgoing director general of the Defense Ministry, said over the weekend that if the tests succeed, the Arrow would be operational next year.

Barak offers Assad a kind assessment

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel and Syria have negotiated through several intermediaries in recent months, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told Newsweek magazine.

In an interview published this week, Barak reiterated his praise for Syrian President Hafez Assad, calling him a "strong, reliable, responsible and impressive leader."

Teens in Jerusalem call for peace deal

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A group of Israeli and Arab teenagers meeting in Jerusalem called on their leaders to stop bickering and make peace. The teens, who had gathered for a reunion, are graduates of Seeds of Peace, a camp in Maine that promotes peace and understanding.

U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, in the region for a peacekeeping mission, told the teens, "You are an inspiration to us because you are a reminder of what we are supposed to be doing."

Iraqi opposition draws official rebuke

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Iraq's vice president criticized a meeting of Iraqi opposition groups seeking to bring about the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

"We, and all honest people in the world, ridicule the meeting," Taha Yassin Ramadan said Monday.

His comment came after some 300 delegates representing Iraqi opposition groups gathered in New York over the weekend to map out a concerted strategy targeting the present Iraqi leadership.

Who will hold keys to Old City church?

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Plans to open an emergency exit in a Christian holy site in Jerusalem's Old City has set off a political dispute over who will hold the keys.

The Israeli government has appointed a committee to look into building an exit in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as part of safety precautions before an expected rise of millennium tourism, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.

The Franciscan, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches are competing for control of the site while keys to the church are held by Muslim families.