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Sharon Government Survives Confidence Votes - 2002-11-04

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has survived three no-confidence votes in the Israeli parliament, even without the support of the Labor Party, which left his government last week.

The vote was the first test the weakened Sharon government has faced.

His government had been expected to withstand the challenge, when the National Union-Yisrael Beitenu faction said it would abstain from the balloting. Mr. Sharon has been negotiating with the party in the hope of forming a new coalition with it, but so far there has been no sign that is likely. The parliament also approved Mr. Sharon's appointment of Shaul Mofaz as the new defense minister. Mr. Mofaz served as chief of the Israeli military forces and carried out the military incursions into the West Bank six months ago in an attempt to stop attacks on Israeli civilians. He retired at the end August and has no party affiliation.

The parliamentary action occurred just moments after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a shopping center in the town of Kfar Saba, 10 kilometers north of Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, two Palestinians, one of them a militant wanted by Israel, were killed when their car exploded in the West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinian witnesses reported hearing Israeli aircraft in the area, and said Israel had fired a missile on the car.

Also on Monday, the human rights group, Amnesty International, accused the Israeli army of war crimes during its incursions into the West Bank towns of Jenin and Nablus last April. Amnesty says the military killed civilians, tortured prisoners, destroyed homes and obstructed humanitarian aid. The army said its offensive was self defense and had been in response to Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.

Just last Friday, another international human rights group, Human Rights Watch, issued a report calling attacks against Israeli civilians war crimes. Palestinian leaders rejected the conclusion of the report, saying the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land was the cause of the violence.