- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2007

GAZA STRIP

7 Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes

GAZA CITY — Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians in a series of air strikes in Gaza Strip yesterday, eliminating three senior Islamic Jihad militants and a rocket manufacturer for an armed wing of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas‘ Fatah group.

Israel’s six successive attacks, aimed at intensifying military pressure on the Hamas-ruled territory it wants to isolate, took place three days after an offensive in which 12 Palestinians were killed in the coastal territory.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed two aerial attacks in Gaza, including one that targeted a car transporting Gaza militants who he said were involved in plotting a suicide bombing and past attacks against Israel.

Palestinian security sources and witnesses said the three militants killed in the first strike in the town of Khan Younis were commanders of the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza.

TURKMENISTAN

President rewards self on birthday

ASHGABAT — Turkmenistan’s president awarded himself a large gold and diamond pendant and a 30 percent salary raise to celebrate his 50th birthday, an echo of the lavish personality cult built around his autocratic late predecessor.

The government also issued 200 gold and 200 silver commemorative coins decorated with Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov’s portrait, the Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper said yesterday.

Mr. Berdimuhammedov decorated himself with the Motherland Order — a gold pendant bedecked with diamonds on a massive golden chain lined with gems — for his “outstanding achievements.”

His predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in December, received 40 awards and also issued coins with his portrait to celebrate his birthdays. Massive statues of him abound, including a golden one in the capital of Ashgabat that rotates to follow the sun’s path.

AFGHANISTAN

U.S.-led air strikes kill, wound civilians

KANDAHAR — U.S.-led air strikes targeting Taliban militants who attacked NATO forces slammed into civilian homes in southern Afghanistan, killing both civilians and insurgents, Afghan and Western officials said yesterday.

Local government officials said up to 60 civilians and 35 insurgents had been killed. NATO did not give an estimate of casualties, but one Western military official said privately that around eight civilians were killed.

The United States acknowledged that some civilians were killed during the fighting in Helmand province’s Gereshk district late Friday after fighters sought shelter in village homes.

IRAN

Top ayatollah backs gas rationing

TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader yesterday threw his weight behind a gasoline rationing plan that sparked angry protests and left more than a dozen gas stations burned down in the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority under its system of clerical rule, hailed the government’s “bravery” in a speech to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and senior officials, state television reported.

Despite huge energy reserves, Iran has limited refining capacity and imports 40 percent of its fuel needs.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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