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Letters Spark Israel Anthrax Scare

October 17, 2001

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Two members of Israel’s parliament received letters with suspicious contents Wednesday, prompting the closure of a section of the building amid fears of anthrax.

Experts wearing chemical suits and gas masks closed off a section of the Knesset after lawmaker Naomi Chazan received a letter in her office that contained white powder, Knesset spokeswoman Nili Shrem said.

Parliamentary opposition leader Yossi Sarid, head of the dovish Meretz party, also received a letter with white powder.

One person has died in Florida and letters containing anthrax have been sent to several locations in the United States, including the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives was closed due to fear of anthrax.

Thousands of other suspected anthrax cases around the world have turned out to be false alarms.

Both Knesset members, accompanied by their assistants, were immediately taken to hospitals, where they were treated for possible infection.

Sarid was given antibiotics and discharged from a Tel Aviv hospital, aide Yael Kessler said. Chazan, taken to a Jerusalem hospital, was also released after an examination. Results were not released.

The sender ``was either an idiot or someone evil,″ Sarid told Israel television in a telephone interview. ``In this instance, it would seem it was an idiot.″

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