A Massive Blow to Peace
Tensions rose inexorably in the Middle East after Israeli helicopters launched
a missile attack on the West Bank offices of the Palestinian militant group Hamas,
killing eight. Two of the dead Jamal Mansour, the top Hamas official in the
West Bank, and his deputy Jamal Salim were decapitated by the missiles, which
plowed through the third-floor offices. Israel blames their network for terrorist
attacks that killed 37 Israelis. Two Palestinian children, brothers aged five
and eight, were killed by shrapnel in the street below the offices. As Hamas vowed
revenge for the attack, Israel defended its policy of targeting Palestinian militants
even during the so-called cease-fire. Israeli army spokesman Brigadier-General
Ron Kitrey said, "We had all the justification in the world, in the sense
of ‘If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.'"
In Nablus a Palestinian Authority security court sentenced four Palestinian men
to death for allegedly collaborating with the Israelis in the killing of a senior
Fatah official in December and a Hamas activist last month.
As politicians from all the Northern Ireland parties discussed the latest plan
to save the faltering peace process, a dissident separatist group demonstrated
its resistance to compromise by detonating a car bomb in West London. The device,
containing 40 kg of homemade explosive, went off near an Underground station and
busy bars at midnight Thursday, injuring seven people. Police believe the bomb
to be the work of the Real I.R.A., the group that killed 29 people with a car
bomb in Omagh in 1998.
Guilty as Charged
General Radislav Krstic was found guilty of genocide at the International Criminal
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. The court sentenced the Bosnian
Serb general to 46 years in prison for the July 1995 murder of nearly 8,000 men
and boys in the "safe haven" of Srebrenica. Krstic, who pleaded not
guilty to all charges, told the court that he knew of the massacres but was powerless
to prevent them. He was second-in-command of Bosnian Serb troops that overran
Srebrenica while the town was officially under the protection of U.N. forces.
Negotiators overcame the sensitive question of language in talks aimed at settling
the five-month conflict in Macedonia. Ethnic Macedonian leaders agreed to accept
Albanian as an official language in areas where 20% of the population is Albanian,
on condition that other matters under discussion could also be agreed. For ethnic
Albanians, who make up about one-third of the population, recognition of their
language is a vital symbol of their status.
Vistula in Flood
Polish soldiers saved several villages from the floodwaters of the river Vistula
by blowing a 50-m wide gap in a dike at Braciejowice, 170 km southeast of Warsaw.
At least 27 people have died in floods following weeks of storms in the south
of the country, while more than 16,000 people were evacuated from their homes
and thousands of hectares of farmland were inundated.
A week after police in the holy city of Mashhad arrested a man for a string of
prostitute murders, two more women were killed in copycat slayings. The arrested
man, Saeed Hanaei, confessed to police that he had killed 16 women for "the
sake of God," and was hailed by religious conservatives as a national hero.
Last week two Tehran prostitutes were murdered in the same way Hanaei killed:
they were strangled with their Islamic headscarves.
A Narrow Escape
By the slimmest of majorities, the 15-member Constitutional Court in Bangkok cleared
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of corruption charges. The court rejected a
finding by an anti-corruption commission last year that Thaksin had intentionally
concealed millions in shares owned by himself and his wife but held by proxies,
including some of their servants. Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party won a landslide
victory in January, when the case against him was already well-known.
The Ravages of Typhoon Toraji
The eighth, and most ferocious, storm to batter Taiwan this year killed at least
86 people, with 132 missing. Typhoon Toraji unleashed torrential rain across eastern
and central parts of the island, triggering flash floods and mudslides. Landslides
caused most of the deaths. Rescuers found the body of one 10-year-old girl 3 m
underground. Scientists believe that much of the mountainous central region is
still unstable from the 1999 earthquake that killed nearly 2,500 people, and fear
that soil erosion has been hastened further by overdevelopment in the area.
At least five of 30 Filipinos kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas last week were
beheaded because they reportedly collaborated with the military. The rebels seized
the hostages from a village on the island of Basilan, where they are also holding
around 20 hostages taken in May from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan. That group
includes two American missionaries and another U.S. national the rebels claimed
to have beheaded.
Gay, Proud and 'Married'
Gay campaigners celebrated new German legislation allowing same-sex "marriages."
Though the new law does not give homosexual couples the same tax advantages and
welfare benefits as heterosexuals, gays will be able to share a surname and have
the same inheritance rights. Among the first to take advantage of the new law
were Angelika Baldow and Gudrun Pannier, who became Frau and Frau Pannier in Berlin's
Schöneberg town hall.
We Won't Be Gagged
China's press showed a new willlingness to challenge communist party propaganda
in reporting a mining accident in Guangxi province. Despite official denials that
any casualties had resulted from a flooding incident three weeks ago in the Longquan
tin mine, stories began to appear in official papers that up to 400 miners were
trapped underground. Journalists who first heard of the accident say they were
gagged by local authorities but passed the story to newspapers outside the province,
which printed it.
In a major victory for the Bush Administration the House of Representatives voted
for legislation that will allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge. The government pushed for approval of the measure, which it insists is
needed to reduce American dependence on imported oil, in the face of criticism
from environmentalists who fear damage to the area's fragile ecosystem.
Going to Pot
Canadians suffering from chronic conditions and terminal illnesses are now legally
permitted to use marijuana to relieve their pain. The new rule allows people meeting
strict criteria to use supplies of the drug, some of which may be grown in a government-sanctioned
operation at an abandoned mine near Flin Flon, in northern Manitoba. Patients'
groups have largely welcomed the new law, though the Canadian Medical Association
opposes it, saying there has not been enough scientific research for accurate
prescription of the drug.