- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2007

GAZA STRIP

21 killed in Gaza as rivals clash

GAZA CITY — The sounds of gunfire and explosions enveloped Gaza City yesterday, and at least 21 persons were killed in the most widespread fighting of nearly a year of clashes between the rival Fatah and Hamas movements.

Street battles turned the densely populated seaside city into a war zone, putting terrified civilians increasingly at risk. Stray bullets damaged apartment buildings, gunmen fired at a group of protesters, and Hamas militants beat a female Fatah lawmaker and her two children before setting fire to their apartment.

Hamas also targeted Israel, firing barrages of homemade rockets for a second day, seriously wounding one person and knocking out power in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, officials said. Israel staged two air strikes on Hamas targets, reportedly killing five persons.

IRAN

Nobel winner to defend scholar

TEHRAN — Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi is to defend a U.S.-Iranian scholar awaiting trial in Tehran on national security charges, a lawyer from Mrs. Ebadi’s human rights group told the Iranian Students’ News Agency yesterday.

Mrs. Ebadi and two other lawyers from her Human Rights Defenders Center agreed to represent Haleh Esfandiari at the request of the detainee’s mother.

Mrs. Esfandiari works for the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and has been held in Tehran’s Evin prison since May 8 after being prevented from leaving the country for several months.

SOMALIA

Bomb kills 4 peacekeepers

MOGADISHU — A remote-controlled bomb killed four African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and a civilian yesterday in the Somali capital, in the kind of Iraq-style attack threatened by militant Islamist insurgents.

Five peacekeepers and two children also were wounded in the attack on an AU convoy, which an AU security source said was the first of its kind against the 1,600-strong Ugandan contingent, which previously had encountered only gunfire.

KAZAKHSTAN

Nazarbayev to cut presidential term

ASTANA — Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in power since 1989, proposed yesterday to cut presidential terms in the Central Asian state to five years from the current seven after his mandate expires in 2012. Mr. Nazarbayev made the proposal in a speech on constitutional changes. Parliament, which has just one opposition member, voted to adopt his changes in the first of two readings.

The vast oil-producing state has never held a vote judged by foreign observers to be free and fair.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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