- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2008

GAZA STRIP

Abbas boycott pause a first since split

GAZA CITY — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called a leader of rival Hamas yesterday to commiserate on the killing of his son by Israeli forces, Hamas said, the first such contact since a Palestinian factional schism last year.

Hamas routed Mr. Abbas’s secular Fatah to take over the Gaza Strip in June, prompting the Palestinian president to shun the Islamist group and step up Western-sponsored peace efforts with Israel. Hamas refuses to give up fighting the Jewish state.

Hamas said Mr. Abbas suspended his boycott by phoning Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official whose son, a gunman, was among 18 Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza on Tuesday.



Israeli officials have said rapprochement between Mr. Abbas and Hamas could scupper peace talks.

IRAQ

Female bomber kills 9 worshippers

BAGHDAD — A woman wearing a vest lined with explosives blew herself up near Shi’ite worshippers in turbulent Diyala province north of the capital yesterday, killing nine of them. Six persons were wounded in the bombing in Khan Bani Saad, a town nine miles south of Baqouba, Diyala’s provincial capital, police said.

The woman detonated her explosives when she saw Shi’ite men in black about 50 yards from a mosque making preparations for a ceremony marking Ashoura, the holiest day in the Shi’ite calendar.

Northwest of Diyala, small-arms fire killed three U.S. soldiers conducting operations yesterday in Salahuddin province, the military said. Two other soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a coalition hospital.

SRI LANKA

Rebel attack kills 31 on bus

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s cease-fire deal ended yesterday in a spasm of violence, as Tamil Tiger rebel suspects bombed a civilian bus, gunned down the fleeing passengers and attacked farmers as they retreated into the bush, killing 31 persons.

The attack stoked fears that the official end of the six-year-old truce — largely ignored in recent years — would lead to even worse violence.

The attackers struck about 7:30 a.m., when they detonated a roadside bomb alongside a passenger bus as it traveled through the remote town of Buttala, southeast of Colombo.

MEXICO

Calderon replaces interior minister

MEXICO CITY — President Felipe Calderon replaced his domestic security chief yesterday with a Spanish-born and U.S.-educated aide who led his 2006 campaign effort.

Juan Camilo Mourino took over as interior secretary, replacing Francisco Ramirez Acuna, who stepped down amid an upsurge in drug-fueled killings and criticism that he has cracked down on opposition protests.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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