ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: A truce between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas took effect
this morning in the Gaza Strip, though leaders from both
sides have expressed doubt that it will hold.
The truce is supposed to last six months, but Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert has called the ceasefire "fragile" and warns that it could
The fragility of the ceasefire was underscored just moments before it
began, when Israeli forces killed a Palestinian militant in Gaza. And
after the truce took effect, the Israeli military says its navy fired
warning shots at Palestinian fishermen who crossed into Israeli waters
off Gaza City.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev expressed Israel's fears that
Hamas will use the period of quiet to rearm and regroup.
Hamas has said it is committed to the truce, but is ready to resume
hostilities if Israel violates the deal.
IRAQ: Iraqi security forces have launched a new crackdown against Shi'ite militias in the southern part of the country.
The operation began today in Maysan province
and its capital Amarah, a region U.S. commanders say is used as a base
to smuggle weapons from neighboring Iran. Over the past days Iraqi
security forces have urged fighters in the area to hand over their
Maysan province also is a stronghold of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada
al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia. Sadr aides have said his followers
will not resist Iraqi forces.
The operation is the latest effort by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki to combat Shi'ite militias. It follows similar crackdowns in
the southern city of Basra and in Baghdad's Sadr City.
In northern Iraq today, coalition forces say they detained 21 suspected terrorists during operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan officials say Afghan and NATO troops have cleared out Taliban
militants from villages outside Kandahar during a major offensive in
The governor of Kandahar Province said today that hundreds of insurgents were killed or wounded during
the operation, including many Pakistanis.
NATO has not confirmed those claims. A spokesman for the alliance told VOA the operation is progressing well
and is expected to continue for the next few days.
The spokesman said the Taliban presence in the area is much smaller
than reported. He noted that there is no evidence that the insurgents
blew up bridges or planted land mines as they claimed.
Afghan and NATO forces launched the joint offensive Wednesday in
Arghandab district and surrounding areas of Kandahar city. ZIMBABWE:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to discuss Zimbabwe's
political crisis at the U.N. Security Council today.
She is expected to stress that next week's run off presidential
election in Zimbabwe must be transparent.
Western and African countries are increasing pressure on Zimbabwean
leader Robert Mugabe to ensure the vote is free and fair. Kenyan Prime
Minister Raila Odinga, speaking Wednesday in Washington,
called Zimbabwe's March elections a "sham" and said the country is an
embarrassment to Africa. He said an international peacekeeping force
should be sent to Zimbabwe to ensure proper elections are held.
South African President Thabo Mbeki held separate talks Wednesday in
Zimbabwe with Mr. Mugabe and his challenger in the run-off, opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
SOKOR - US BEEF: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has apologized again to the
country for a deal to resume U.S. beef imports that sparked widespread
street protests and crippled his young administration.
Mr. Lee made his apology during a nationally televised speech today. It was his second apology over the disputed deal in four
The president says he and his government failed to fully understand the
concerns of the South Korean people before making the deal with
The pact would have allowed the U.S. to fully export all beef to South
Korea, regardless of its age. But the public has voiced concern because
cattle 30 months old or older are considered highly susceptible to the
brain-wasting disease known as mad cow disease.
BURMA - SUU KYI BIRTHDAY: Burmese authorities have arrested at least five supporters of democracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi who were gathered outside her political party
headquarters to observe her 63rd birthday today.
Witnesses say the arrests happened after authorities broke up a
demonstration outside the offices of the National League for Democracy
in the main city of Rangoon. The supporters had been shouting slogans
calling on the ruling military junta to release Suu Kyi from house
Her supporters had gathered at the NLD headquarters to offer food to Buddhist monks to mark her birthday.
The Nobel Peace laureate is spending her birthday quietly at her
Burmese home, where she has been under detention for 12 of the last 18
years. Last month, the country's ruling military junta extended her
detention by one year.
CHINA - JAPAN - GAS: Chinese Foreign Minister Wu Dawei is defending a landmark deal with
Japan to jointly develop gas reserves in the disputed East China Sea
just one day after the agreement was announced.
Speaking with reporters today in Beijing, Wu
says the agreement does not mean Beijing has given up or compromised
its legal territorial claims in the area. Wu says that in making the
deal both China and Japan have agreed to shelve their differences.
China does not recognize Japan's claim that a median line exists
between the two countries in the East China Sea. Instead, China insists
its exclusive economic zone stretches farther east to the edge of the
continental shelf near the Japanese island of Okinawa.
The agreement announced Wednesday allows Japanese companies to invest
in and claim proportional profits from existing and developing projects
NIGERIA - OIL UNREST: The Royal Dutch Shell oil company says it has stopped production at an
offshore oil installation in Nigeria after an armed attack today.
A spokesperson for the region's main militant group (the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) told
the Associated Press that its members attacked the Bonga oil field, but
were unable to enter a computer control room that they had hoped to
The Bonga offshore oil field produces about 200-thousand barrels of oil a day.
Militants have a history of attacking Nigeria's onshore oil-producing facilities. An offshore attack is rare.
Militants and gangs began attacking oil facilities in the southern
Niger Delta region in late 2005 to demand that more oil revenue be
directed to impoverished local residents.
US - FLOODS: U.S. President George Bush will travel to (the midwestern state of)
Iowa today to get a a first-hand look at the damage caused
last week when the Mississippi River swelled and spilled over its
The surging river has swamped nearly two dozen levees along the
waterway, submerging dozens of small towns in Iowa and the neighboring
states of Illinois and Missouri. The floods have also destroyed
thousands of hectares of agricultural crops, including corn and wheat,
a loss experts fear will trigger higher food prices.
Residents have joined members of the National Guard in a desperate
effort to fill sandbags needed to shore up threatened levees. Concerns
over pollution are also growing, as the floodwaters carried
chemicals and raw sewage from damaged factories and wastewater plants.
Listen to our World News for details.