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Friday Headlines

1. PALESTINIANS: WORLD MEDIA MOURNS ARAFAT TOO SOON…Palestinian spokespeople say they are less than happy that the foreign media has spent the last 24 hours discussing the “what ifs” about a replacement for Yassir Arafat, even though the 75-year-old leader is still very much alive. Hundreds of journalists gathered outside Arafat’s Ramallah compound on Thursday and Friday to record the exact details of his illness. However, much of the reportage has been focusing on the day after Arafat, while the Palestinians have been at pains to suggest that Arafat’s illness is treatable and it will be back to business as normal in a few days. Meanwhile, Arafat left Ramallah bound for Paris, France at 7a.m. local time on Friday. It is unclear for how long he will be away from Ramallah.

2. EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TO VISIT ISRAEL…Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to congratulate him on the passage of his Gaza-withdrawal plan though Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, earlier this week. Mubarak is trying to act as a go-between in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His first mission is to bring about a cease-fire among Palestinian terror groups. As part of Cairo’s diplomatic push, Mubarak is sending his Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit to Israel in two weeks.

3. ISRAELI SOLDIER KILLED, SIX INJURED IN MORTAR ATTACK…Israel says 21-year-old Michael Chiswick was killed when a mortar hit him and six other soldiers in Gaza on Thursday. Doctors say three of the soldiers remain in serious condition on Friday. Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops a few minutes later. It is believed they could have been the ones who carried out the attack, just outside Morag, a Jewish village in Gaza.