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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 22:05 GMT
Mid-East team heads to Antarctica
A unique polar expedition made up of Palestinians and Israelis has left Chile for Antarctica in a bid to show the two peoples can work together.

The group believe the project - called Breaking the Ice - will force people separated by political and religious differences to co-operate.

The four Arabs and four Jews left Chile in motor yachts on a four-day journey to the frozen continent.

The group plans to climb an unexplored mountain in a team-building exercise.

Its members come from widely differing backgrounds: two of the Israelis are former members of an elite commando unit and one of the Palestinians served 10 years in prison for attacking Israeli troops.

Heskel Nathaniel, team leader
Heskel Nathaniel - Israeli property developer
Doron Erel - one of Israel's top mountaineers; served in the elite commando unit of the Israeli army
Avihu Shoshani - Israeli lawyer; also a former elite commando
Yarden Fanta - Israeli PhD candidate; trekked from Ethiopia via Sudan to Israel aged 14
Nasser Quos - Palestinian football coach; spent three years in an Israeli prison for attacking Israeli troops with fire bombs
Suleiman al-Khatib - Palestinian imprisoned for 10 years aged 14 for carrying out actions against Israeli troops
Ziad Darwish - Palestinian journalist; his brother was killed in an Israeli army raid in 1982
Olfat Haider - gymnastics teacher
However, team leader Heskel Nathanial was confident of success as his group set off on the 35-day expedition on New Year's Day.

"I think we are setting a very good example on how different people can live and cooperate together," he told AP news agency.

"We are determined to support and help each other."

Palestinian team member Ziad Darwish said earlier that the eight were "going as one group, not two" and would help each other.

Except for team leaders Mr Nathaniel and Doron Erel, none of the group has mountaineering experience.

They left the Chilean naval base of Puerto Williams on Thursday in two motorised yachts on a four-day crossing to Antarctica, using the Drake Passage.

Once there, they are due to sail for a further five days along the Antarctic coast to the climb site near Bruce Plateau.

The expedition is the first organised by Extreme Peace Missions, a charity that aims to bring people together through adventure and sporting endeavours.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has endorsed the expedition and, on the Israeli side, artist Menashe Kadishman donated a painting for the yacht's main sail.

Mid-East rivals seek polar harmony
28 Dec 03  |  Middle East
Antarctic setting for Mid-East peace bid
22 Sep 03  |  Middle East

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