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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. ISRAEL BLOCKS JOINT STATEMENT BY EUROMED NATIONS… Israel’s lone opposition has prevented a unanimous joint statement by the 35-nation Euromed members meeting in Barcelona, Spain. Euromed is comprised of the European Union and Mediterranean-rim nations. Because of Israel’s stance, the final wrap-up of the conference was presented in a chairman’s statement rather than a traditional joint declaration. The stumbling block was Israel’s refusal to accept a general reference to the peace process. The Euromed nations did agree on a “code of conduct” in fighting terrorism and a five-year plan for inter-regional cooperation. The conference had already been generally deemed to have been a failure because Arab leaders had refused to attend, each claiming an overriding commitment.

2. PALESTINIANS FIRE QASSAM ROCKETS AT ISRAEL; ISRAEL FIRES AT EMPTY FIELDS… Palestinians returned to firing Qassam rockets and mortars at Israeli targets on Monday. A rocket fell close to an Israeli town located near the southern border of the Gaza Strip and one fell near a community in the Negev region. In addition, a mortar round damaged a house in an Israeli town north of the Gaza Strip. In response, the Israeli army fired its artillery at empty fields from which it says the rockets were launched.

3. SENIOR LABOR MEMBER DEFECTS AFTER PROMISING NOT TO… Just hours after senior Labor Party member Dalia Itzik told chairman ‘Amir Peretz that she had no intention of leaving the party, she did just that and announced she was joining Ariel Sharon’s new party. Most observers believe that Itzik’s move is further indication that her political mentor, Shimon Peres, will accept Sharon’s invitation to become the ‘peace czar’ in his new administration if he wins the March elections. Relations between deposed chairman Peres and the party reached new lows on Monday when his brother, speaking on Israel Radio, said Israeli Moroccans – whom he called “foreign bodies” — took over the Labor Party the way Generalissimo Francisco Franco took over Spain.

4. ANCIENT ANCHORS FOUND IN DEAD SEA… Two ancient anchors — one 2,500 years old and one 2,000 years old – were uncovered as the water level of the Dead Sea receded. The find was reported on Israel Television on Monday. Both anchors – the oldest ever found – were made of acacia wood and were used by Roman ships. Archaeologist David Mevorach explained that the anchors and the ropes that tied them to the ships were preserved by the high salt and low oxygen content of the Dead Sea where the water level has been receding in recent years. Because water is being diverted from the Jordan River for irrigation, an insufficient amount is available to replenish the Dead Sea. As the water level dropped, a number of archaeological finds have been made.

5. ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN RED CROSS EQUIVALENTS SIGN AGREEMENT IN GENEVA… The Israeli Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David) and the Palestinian Red Crescent signed an agreement of mutual recognition in Geneva on Monday that is expected to clear the way for the International Committee of the Red Cross to admit the Israeli organization as a member. The agreement expresses each organization’s respect of the other’s jurisdiction and accepts Red Cross regulations. It also accepts the new “red crystal” symbol which the Israeli group will have to use, albeit with the red star alongside on its ambulances in the field.