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GAZA STRIP

Hamas captures Fatah security base

GAZA CITY — Hundreds of Hamas fighters firing rockets and mortar shells captured the headquarters of the Fatah-allied security forces in northern Gaza yesterday, achieving a key victory in the battle for control of the seaside strip.

Both sides said Gaza had descended into civil war, as the death toll from two days of bloodshed reached 37.

The fighting marked a turning point, with Hamas moving systematically to seize Fatah positions in what some in the Islamist militant group said would be a decisive phase in the yearlong power struggle.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused the Islamist militants of trying to stage a coup, and leaders of his Fatah movement urged him to declare a state of emergency.

ISRAEL

Barak wins race to lead Labor Party

JERUSALEM — Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak won the Labor Party primary over a relative political newcomer, party officials from both camps said late yesterday.

Although the votes were still being counted, the officials said, Mr. Barak would have a final margin of victory of 6 percent to 7 percent over Ami Ayalon, a former navy commander.

Mr. Barak is expected to replace deposed party leader Amir Peretz as defense minister in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Cabinet. Despite his call for Mr. Olmert to resign over last summer’s inconclusive war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Mr. Barak was not expected to pull his party out of the coalition right away.

CROATIA

Tribunal convicts Serbian war criminal

THE HAGUE — The Yugoslavia war-crimes tribunal convicted a wartime leader of Croatia’s rebel Serbs of murder, torture and persecution yesterday and sentenced him to 35 years in prison for a brutal ethnic-cleansing campaign of non-Serbs in Croatia.

Judges said Milan Martic, 52, was responsible for hundreds of murders from 1991, when Serbs in the Krajina region of southern Croatia rebelled and set up a breakaway ministate, until 1995, when Croatian forces recaptured the area.

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