- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

GAZA STRIP

Rights group slams Hamas

GAZA CITY | A prominent human rights group said there is “strong evidence” that Gaza’s Hamas rulers committed war crimes by allowing militants to fire rockets from the Palestinian territory that killed civilians in Israel, according to a report released Thursday.

The 31-page report by New York-based Human Rights Watch focuses on Hamas’ actions in connection with Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza that ended in late January. Human Rights Watch, as well as other groups, have previously accused Israel of committing war crimes during the offensive aimed at stopping Palestinian rocket fire.

“Hamas rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians are unlawful and unjustifiable, and amount to war crimes,” said Iain Levine of Human Rights Watch. But the report stopped short of accusing Hamas militants of war crimes.

Hamas rejected the group’s findings, calling it “biased.”

RUSSIA

Ankara, Moscow sign pipeline deal

ANKARA | Russia on Thursday secured Turkish support for a pipeline project that challenges European efforts to reduce energy dependence on Moscow, but predicted that Europe would ultimately benefit from the deal.

Russia’s proposed South Stream pipeline rivals a pipeline project known as Nabucco that has the backing of the European Union and the United States and would provide a supply of gas not subject to Russian control.

At a signing ceremony in Ankara, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sought to portray the South Stream project as a contributor to Europe’s energy security. The deal they signed provides for constructing part of the pipeline through Turkish waters in the Black Sea.

Mr. Putin acknowledged that the Russian plan was in competition with the EU-backed one, speaking in blunter language than Russian officials who have downplayed the pipeline rivalry in the past. But he suggested the two projects could coexist.

IRAQ

Anti-smoking bill gets Cabinet nod

BAGHDAD | The Iraqi Cabinet has approved a draft bill to stamp out smoking in public places, the first such bill in a country where lighting up is virtually a rite of passage for most young men, a government spokesman said Thursday.

The bill still needs to be approved by parliament, which is in recess until September.

If passed, it would be one of the region’s most comprehensive bans, similar to many laws in the U.S. and Europe.

The Iraqi law also would ban advertising cigarettes.

BRITAIN

Great Train Robber leaves prison

LONDON | British authorities released Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs from prison on compassionate grounds.

British Justice Secretary Jack Straw said Thursday he decided to free Biggs because he is seriously ill with pneumonia and is not expected to recover.

Biggs turns 80 this weekend.

He was part of a gang that robbed a Glasgow-to-London mail train in August 1963, in what was called the “heist of the century.” The robbery netted 2.6 million pounds - worth more than $50 million today. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison but escaped in 1965 and fled to Brazil. In 2001, he voluntarily returned to Britain and surrendered to police.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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