Israel pulls out of last West Bank town

JERUSALEM

Israel pulled its forces out of Jenin, the last of six West Bank towns invaded last month after the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister, the military said today.

The pullout came as two U.S. mediators began a mission to implement a cease-fire to stop more than a year of Palestinian-Israeli fighting. The United States repeatedly demanded that Israel withdraw its army from Palestinian areas and keep it out. In a statement, the military said Israeli forces staged the pullout “according to instructions and directions from the government” and redeployed in “positions under Israeli control around the town, from which (Israeli forces) can continue to protect the security of the citizens of Israel and prevent terrorism.”

Israeli troops and tanks moved into sections of Jenin and five other towns starting Oct. 18, the day after militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi at a Jerusalem hotel, retribution for Israel”s killing of PFLP leader Mustafa Zibri, who Israel charged with directing terror attacks.

Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni are seeking to nudge the two sides toward implementing a cease-fire and restarting peace talks calming the Mideast conflict as the United States and its allies concentrate on the war against terrorism.

Storm dumps up to a foot of snow on Plains

UNITED STATES

A gusty storm system piled up nearly a foot of snow across the northern Plains yesterday, shutting down highways and closing schools as it ended an unseasonable stretch of warm, dry weather.

Wet, blowing snow made highways from Wyoming to Minnesota dangerously slick and blotted out the landscape.

More than 140 miles of Interstate 80 was closed, from Big Springs, Neb., west to Cheyenne, Wyo., and various state and local highways were also shut down. In South Dakota, some truckers pulled off east-west I-90 and other highways to wait out the weather. One person was killed in an automobile accident on a snowy highway in northeastern Wyoming.

Snow in Minneapolis delayed flights arriving from across the country. Northwest Airlines, which has its major hub in the city, canceled 72 flights in and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as a precaution.

Nearly 10 inches had fallen at Bonesteel, S.D., and Bloomfield, Neb., by late afternoon. In Sioux Falls, S.D., where 11 inches of snow had fallen by evening, officials shut down the airport, canceling more than a dozen flights.

Teens modeled plot after Columbine

NEW BEDFORD, Mass.

Two teen-age brothers and a 15-year-old friend allegedly planned to kill “thugs, preps, and faculty” in a Columbine-style bloodbath at their high school, according to police reports released yesterday.

The boys then planned to climb onto the roof of New Bedford High School and shoot each other “so it was a homicide, not suicide,” according to police interviews with two students who authorities say were involved but had not yet been arrested or charged.

The students allegedly modeled themselves after the two teen-agers who carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.

They were arrested at their homes Saturday after a janitor found a letter outlining their alleged plot, which also included detonating explosives.

American hostages appear on video

MANILA, Philippines

A pair of terrified American missionaries, held hostage by Muslim extremists for six months, said in a videotape aired yesterday that they long to rejoin their children.

The one-minute tape recorded Sunday showed Gracia and Martin Burnham surrounded by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas with heavy weaponry. It was the first video shown of the Wichita, Kan., couple since they were abducted May 27 while celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at a tourist resort. Both are in their early 40s.

More than 7,000 Filipino soldiers have been deployed in southern Basilan island to rescue the Americans and wipe out the guerrillas, who have been linked in the past to Osama bin Laden”s al-Qaida terrorist network.

“This is a tragedy,” Gracia said, trying to suppress sobs as she talked.

Expanded “buffer zones” struck down

NEW YORK

A federal appeals court yesterday struck down a ruling that expanded protest-free “buffer zones” outside two Buffalo health clinics and prevented the use of sound amplifiers during abortion protests.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Judge Richard Arcara went too far when he decided in 1999 to expand the 15-foot zones.

“That”s wonderful news,” said Christopher Ferrara, a lawyer for the American Catholic Lawyers Association Inc. He said it had become impossible to protest from so far away.

The zones were enlarged in anticipation of large abortion protests in Buffalo. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer successfully convinced the judge that protesters should be kept as far as 60 feet away from Buffalo GYN Womenservices and 30 feet away from Planned Parenthood in Rochester.

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