World

Israeli tanks were en route to the Gaza Strip and military reservists were activated as signs grew that the government finally would crack down on the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the latest suicide bombing. To date, Israel has not targeted senior Hamas leaders, who use Gaza as their base. In an indication that Yasser Arafat also was taking action against terror groups, his police arrested 16 Hamas members. Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, Israeli negotiators rejected a last-minute demand by gunmen holed up in the Church of the Nativity that a European monitor accompany them into exile, leaving the siege that began April 2 still intact. (Related story, page 3.)

Many children were among the casualties when a remote-controlled bomb exploded during World War II Victory Day celebrations in southern Russia, near the border with breakaway Chechnya. At least 32 people died and more than 100 others were hurt. There was no claim of responsibility. But President Vladimir Putin called the perpetrators "scum" and said there was no doubt "this was a terrorist act." Above, investigators examine the blast site.

Hundreds of Muslim extremists were in police custody in Pakistan in the wake of Wednesday's suicide-bomb explosion that killed 14 bus passengers, most of them French nationals. "The majority" of the detainees belong to groups suspected of having links to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, officials said, vowing "a sustained campaign" against terrorism.

Without specifying a date, an official Iraqi newspaper said preparations were under way for a national referendum later this year on whether President Saddam Hussein should serve another term. In similar balloting in 1995, he won 99.6 percent of the vote. The Bush administration has made a regime change in Iraq a top foreign policy goal.

Amid reports that their ranks have absorbed heavy casualties this week, Nepal's communist rebels declared a 30-day cease-fire in their campaign to topple the government. But they said the truce would end in "a fierce battle" if government forces didn't also observe it. The government has claimed hundreds of rebel deaths in its latest offensive, and earlier this week the US pledged $20 million in military aid to further the effort.

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