Troops enter camp as conflict escalates
NAHR AL-BARED — Lebanese troops advanced for the first time yesterday into a Palestinian refugee camp, where they have been battling al Qaeda-inspired militants, security sources and witnesses said.
Lebanese and army flags were seen flying over two or three devastated buildings inside Nahr al-Bared as the battle for the northern Lebanon camp between the military and Fatah al-Islam fighters entered its ninth week.
The advance marked a major step for the army in the battle to crush the militants and a rare venture by troops into a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.
Hamas fails in bid to convene session
GAZA CITY — Hamas Islamists failed yesterday to convene the Palestinian parliament to challenge the legality of the government just installed by President Mahmoud Abbas.
The session was not able to start because a quorum of 67 members could not be assembled. Hamas lawmakers said just 28 of 132 legislators turned up for the session, held jointly in Gaza and the West Bank.
Fatah members boycotted the session, calling it illegal. In lieu of the session, Hamas lawmakers held an informal “consultative” meeting over the steps taken by Mr. Abbas.
Strong quake jolts capital
TOKYO — A strong earthquake jolted northwestern Japan this morning and caused buildings in the capital Tokyo to sway. The Meteorological Agency said small tsunamis as high as 20 inches were thought to have hit coasts in the area.
Three nuclear reactors in the region automatically stopped, but no irregularities were reported, public broadcaster NHK said.
The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 and was centered off the coast of the prefecture of Niigata, the agency said. The tidal waves were thought to have hit the Niigata coasts, the agency added, and several bullet train services linking Tokyo to northern Japan have been suspended.
Pope’s travel plans may include Boston
LORENZAGO DI CADORE — Pope Benedict XVI is planning numerous trips abroad in the coming year to the United Nations, Australia, Austria and a shrine in Lourdes, France, the Vatican spokesman said yesterday.
In addition, the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, has invited Benedict to visit Boston next year, saying it would help mend wounds from the clergy sexual-abuse scandal.
The first of the pope’s confirmed trips will be a Sept. 7 to 9 visit to Vienna, Austria, where he plans to deliver an important speech to diplomats, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.
Aristide supporters march in capital
PORT-AU-PRINCE — Supporters of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide marched through Haiti’s capital yesterday, demanding the ousted leader’s return and accusing President Rene Preval of turning his back on his one-time ally.
Chants of “Preval is a traitor” and “Bring Aristide home” rose up as more than 1,000 protesters marched from the Port-au-Prince slum of Bel-Air to the heavily guarded National Palace, Mr. Preval’s official residence.
Mr. Aristide was toppled during a 2004 rebel uprising and is exiled in South Africa.
From wire dispatches and staff reports