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Refugees Join Holocaust Ceremony

Sirens wailed for two minutes across Israel Tuesday during the annual commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

People pulled their cars off the roads, pedestrians paused on crosswalks and many stood silent in remembrance of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.

This year's ceremonies were carried out in the shadow of mass expulsions and alleged atrocities in Kosovo, which, for many Holocaust survivors, dredged up painful memories of their own experiences in World War Two.

At a memorial ceremony on Monday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said nothing could be compared to the Holocaust.

Â"But as Jews,Â" he added, Â"we cannot stand idly by when faced with images of Kosovo, of thousands of refugees expelled from their homes, of the frightened faces peering from railroad cars, of children who lost their parents.Â"

On Monday, 110 ethnic Albanian refugees were flown from a Macedonian refugee camp to Israel, where they were welcomed by Netanyahu.

One 18-year-old refugee said that during her family's weeklong journey without food, they saw 13 people die of hunger along the roadsides.

Â"We were afraid, we were terrified. We were simply forced out by the Serbian army,Â" she recalled slowly as tears ran from her blue eyes.

When she, her parents and two siblings crossed the border, it was to a refugee camp near Skopje, Macedonia. They stayed in a tent close to a field hospital set up by the Israeli army for ethnic Albanian refugees. There, they were given the option of a temporary home in the Jewish state.

Netanyahu said the group would be welcome to stay in Israel if they chose to do so. Thirty Bosnian Muslims who sought refuge here in 1993 have remained.

During his greeting, Netanyahu singled out Llamia Jaka, the daughter of Dervish and Servet Kurkut, a Kosovar couple that hid Jews during the Holocaust.

Â"Today we are closing a circle, by granting shelter to the daughter of those who saved Jews,Â" he said. Ms. Jaka and her husband were among the refugees; her two children were on their way from Budapest.

Meanwhile, in a teeming camp in Macedonia for ethnic Albanian refugees, Israeli army doctors, nurses and medics held a Holocaust memorial ceremony in a field hospital they have staffed for the last week.

Â"No question the sights we see here in this camp and others are reminiscent of those of the past,Â" Dr. Roni Maor, a physician at the field hospital and son of Holocaust survivors, told Israel Radio.

Â"But I do not think this is a holocaust—there is no deliberate extermination of an entire people. There has been cruel and barbaric behavior, but no holocaust,Â" Maor said.

Elie Wiesel, one of the best-known Holocaust survivors, evoked his experiences at the hands of the Nazis to make an impassioned plea for the world not to ignore the plight of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.

"This time the world was not silent. This time we did respond. This time we interened," Wiesel said during a visit to the White House in Washington.