Other items: Palestinian leader decries Israeli barrier and rebels, government to sign total cease-fire in Uganda.

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Four Israeli antiquities collectors and dealers were indicted yesterday on charges they ran a sophisticated forgery ring that spanned the globe and produced a treasure trove of fake Bible-era artifacts, including some that were hailed as major archaeological finds.

Police said the ring forged what were presented as perhaps the two biggest biblical discoveries in the Holy Land in recent years — the purported burial box of Jesus’ brother James and a stone tablet with written instructions by King Yoash on maintenance work at the ancient Jewish Temple.

Shuka Dorfman, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the scope of the fraud appears to go far beyond what has been uncovered so far.

Investigators warned that collectors and museums around the world could be in the possession of fakes, and scholars urged museums to re-examine items of suspicious origin. The forgery ring has been operating for more than 20 years, Dorfman said.

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The four men indicted were Tel Aviv collector Oded Golan, owner of the James ossuary and the Yoash tablet; Robert Deutsch, an inscriptions expert who teaches at Haifa University; collector Shlomo Cohen; and antiquities dealer Faiz al-Amaleh. The four are free on bail, police said.


Tulkarem, West Bank


Palestinian leader decries Israeli barrier

Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made a campaign run yesterday through West Bank towns living in the shadow of Israel’s separation barrier, urging Israel to tear down the huge structure that he said would never help peace.

Abbas, the front-runner in the Jan. 9 presidential election, made the appeal in Tulkarem, a town of 40,000 on the line between Israel and the West Bank, blocked on two sides by the 25-foot-high concrete slabs of the barrier. Israel began building it to stop a wave of Palestinian suicide bombers who were infiltrating unhindered from the West Bank.

“I say to our neighbors … no fence will bring peace or bring you security,” Abbas told a rally at a Tulkarem stadium just 500 yards from the barrier.


Kitgum, Uganda


Rebels, government to sign total cease-fire

Uganda’s government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army are to sign a landmark total cease-fire tomorrow, opening the way for an end to a bloody 18-year insurgency, the chief negotiator said yesterday.

The LRA, whose only stated aim is to rule the east African country by the biblical Ten Commandments, has rampaged through the north of Uganda, attacking civilians, kidnapping children and forcing 1.6 million people to flee to refugee camps.

Both sides expressed hope the cease-fire would end the war.