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World Scene

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.

BRITAIN

Blair likens press to 'feral beast'

LONDON — Britain's press is like a "feral beast" that tears people and reputations to shreds, Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday in a parting shot at journalists after a decade in power.

Mr. Blair, who steps down on June 27, said he was not blaming the press for the "damaged" relationship with politicians but was pointing the finger at the changing nature of modern news.

TURKEY

Kurdish group declares truce

ANKARA — The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, declared yesterday that it would halt attacks but said its rebels would continue to defend themselves when attacked by Turkish forces, a Belgium-based Kurdish news agency reported.

The Turkish military has intensified anti-rebel operations in the country's southeast at the border with Iraq, where the guerrillas have been fighting for autonomy for more than two decades.

BULGARIA

Islamist arrested as threat to Bush

SOFIA — Bulgarian authorities said yesterday that they had arrested a member of an Islamist group who reportedly tried to approach President Bush during his visit to Bulgaria earlier this week.

"The man is of Arabic origin and a member of an Islamist group. There is also evidence he had trained as a sniper," Interior Minister Rumen Petkov said From wire dispatches and staff reports

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