Hamas members shot by Israeli soldiers

JERUSALEM

Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinians in the West Bank yesterday, while in the Gaza Strip troops divided the territory into three parts, restricting the movement of more than 1 million Palestinians.

The operations appeared to be part of Israel’s stepped-up efforts against the militant Islamic group Hamas, which killed four soldiers in an attack on a tank Saturday in Gaza.

Despite the violence, Israelis and Palestinians have been holding increased contacts on the possibility of a cease-fire, though no breakthroughs have been achieved.

In London, William Burns, a State Department official, met Palestinian Cabinet ministers on Wednesday to discuss a U.S.-backed peace plan that envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about three years.

Burns told the Palestinians that formal discussions on the plan would not resume until after Israel forms a new government – a process that could take several more weeks – and would also depend on developments in Iraq, said Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat, one of the participants.

The Palestinians asked the United States to send international monitors in the meantime to protect their civilians during Israeli military offensives, but Burns said Washington did not support such an idea.

Girl survives second heart transplant

A 17-year-old girl underwent a second heart-lung transplant yesterday, two weeks after a botched transplant with organs of the wrong blood type left her near death.

The family of Jesica Santillan was elated early yesterday when it learned that donated organs had been shown to be a good match, said supporters who raised funds for the girl.

But after the second transplant was completed, Duke University Hospital doctors said it was too early to say how much damage Jesica’s body had suffered while she was on life support.

Duane Davis, surgical director of Duke’s lung transplant program, who assisted in yesterday’s operation, said the newly transplanted organs were “performing as we would expect.”

But Jesica “is as critical as a person could be. … I can’t really say anybody could be any sicker,” he said.

Jesica, who has type O-positive blood, was given a heart and lungs from a donor with type A blood in a transplant Feb. 7 at Duke. Her condition steadily deteriorated as her body rejected the new organs.

N. Korean jet tries to enter S. Korea

SEOUL, South Korea

Rattling nerves along the border, a North Korean fighter jet violated South Korean airspace over the Yellow Sea yesterday before turning back as warplanes in the South scrambled.

The flight, the first such incursion in 20 years, was the latest in a series of North Korean provocations against South Korea.

The incursion, which lasted two minutes, came only days after North Korea threatened to abandon the armistice keeping peace along the border if the United States imposes sanctions on the communist regime.

The flight also underlined heightened tensions just days ahead of a visit to South Korea by Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss the standoff over the North’s nuclear program.

South Korea protested the intrusion, the first by air since 1983.

NASA ofcials still investigating crash

SPACE CENTER, Houston

Just how the foam insulation was applied to the fuel tanks of NASA’s space shuttles is getting special attention by the board investigating the Columbia accident, officials said yesterday.

One leading theory is that the insulation or the heavier material beneath may have damaged Columbia during liftoff, enough to trigger a deadly breach as the spaceship hurtled toward a Florida landing 2 1/2 weeks ago.

The foam insulation is applied by at a Lockheed Martin plant in New Orleans. More of the foam is applied about a month before liftoff in several small areas of the tank needing touchup at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The investigation board has visited both sites and is going back for a second, harder look at the techniques – and safeguards – used.

Americans boycott products from France

PHILADELPHIA

Mon dieu, how some Americans are bashing the French these days!

Americans galled by France’s reluctance to endorse an invasion of Iraq are boycotting French wine and french fries and trading jokes and insults about all things Gallic.

A Las Vegas radio station Tuesday used an armored vehicle to crush photographs of French President Jacques Chirac, photocopies of the French flag, a Paris travel guide, bottles of wine and a loaf of French bread.

In Beaufort, N.C., one restaurant owner took french fries off his menu and replaced them with ‘freedom fries.’

In West Palm Beach, Fla., bar owner Ken Wagner dumped his entire stock of French wine and champagne into the street, vowing to serve vintages only from nations that support U.S. policy.

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