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Briefly: Attacks on Palestinians kindle debate on values

- - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

JERUSALEM — Two vicious attacks on Palestinians, presumed to be the work of Jews, have some Israelis worried that their society is increasingly tolerant of hate crimes.

Over the weekend, unknown assailants firebombed a Palestinian taxi in the West Bank. Hours later, a mob of Jewish teens beat a 17-year-old Palestinian unconscious in downtown Jerusalem.

Israeli leaders condemned the violence.

On Tuesday, President Shimon Peres said he was "mortified" by the "intolerable" attack on the teen.

Others are cautioning against making broad indictments of Israeli society, arguing that incidents of violence and intolerance are not widespread, despite constant tensions from the long-standing conflict between Arabs and Jews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to bring the people responsible for the firebombing to justice and relayed that message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon described the two weekend attacks as "terrorist acts" that "run contrary to Jewish ethics and values."

Critics charge that authorities are lax in pursuing Jews suspected of attacking Palestinians, noting few indictments or convictions in dozens of cases of assaults on Palestinians and their property every year.

IRAQ

Dempsey: U.S. still key in Iraq after troop exit

BAGHDAD — Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insists that Washington still has an important role to play in Iraq, where he landed Tuesday, eight months after U.S. troops departed.

Gen. Dempsey, who is to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari, is the highest-ranking American to visit Iraq since the December pullout.

Gen. Dempsey said in an interview with Agence-France Presse that the U.S. still has a role in Iraq.

"We still retain significant investment and significant influence. But now it's on the basis of a partnership and not on the basis of ownership," he said.

Gen. Dempsey stressed that he came to build a dialogue with his Iraqi counterparts and explore expanding military ties, not to make demands. He also said he wants to discuss Iraq's interest in training and military exercises with U.S. forces, as well as the possibility of arms sales.

EGYPT

Iran, Egypt to restore diplomatic ties

CAIRO — Iran and Egypt are moving toward restoring diplomatic relations that were severed more than three decades ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview published Tuesday.

Mr. Salehi said Tehran is keen on establishing relations of "friendship and brotherhood" with Cairo, Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

"Egypt is the cornerstone of the region and has a special stature in the Arab and Muslim countries and we want relations of friendship and brotherhood with it," Mr. Salehi said, adding that Tehran hopes to restore "normal" relations with Cairo. "We will pursue this path, and restoration of relations depends only on protocol measures."

Mr. Salehi said Egypt's "revolution opened a new chapter in Egypt's relations with the outside world," adding that the Islamic republic welcomes Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi attending a Non-Aligned Movement summit later this month in Tehran.

LEBANON

Clashes between Syrian groups spill across border, killing two

TRIPOLI, Lebanon — Clashes in Lebanon between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime have killed two people and wounded 45, security officials said.

The army said nine Lebanese soldiers were injured in fighting that broke out Monday night and continued Tuesday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

The mostly Sunni city also saw gun battles in May, when fighting over Syria killed eight people.

The latest clashes are between gunmen from a Sunni neighborhood and a rival district populated by Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Mr. Assad is a member of Syria's Alawite minority. Rebels fighting his regime are members of the nation's Sunni majority.

From wire dispatches and staff reports