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ISRAEL

Security chief: Militants have 5,000 rockets

JERUSALEM | Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip have an estimated 5,000 rockets, some of them with a range of up to 25 miles, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Tuesday.

“In the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organizations continue to arm themselves, both manufacturing and smuggling [rockets],” Yuval Diskin told the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, officials at the closed door meeting said.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad together have some 5,000 rockets with ranges up to 40 kilometers,” he said, pointing out that 4,000 of them belonged to Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

He warned that Hamas also had a few rockets with a greater range that could hit central Israel.

In December 2008, the Jewish state began an attack on the Gaza Strip to stop almost-daily rocket fire on southern Israel. The 22-day operation left an estimated 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

PAKISTAN

Aid group retreats after worker slain

ISLAMABAD | The international aid group Mercy Corps has suspended its operations in Pakistan after kidnappers killed one of its employees, the agency said Tuesday, the latest fallout from attacks on aid groups in the troubled nation.

Four Pakistani employees of Mercy Corps were abducted Feb. 18 as they drove to one of their offices in Quetta, the capital of southwest Baluchistan province. The staffers were working on health programs in the restive region.

A Mercy Corps press release said the agency recently learned that a 52-year-old driver in the group, a father of nine and identified only as Habibullah, had been slain earlier this month. There was no word on the fate of the other three staffers.

“It is shocking and tragic that someone dedicated to improving the lives of Pakistanis should be the target of such senseless violence,” Mercy Corps chief executive Neal Keny-Guyer said.

The Portland, Ore.-based agency did not say how long its work will be suspended. Mercy Corps has been working in Pakistan since 1986 on a variety of health, economic development and emergency relief programs.

As Islamist extremism has risen and the security situation deteriorated in Pakistan, aid groups including those overseen by the United Nations have been attacked and forced to scale back their activities.

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