World

Israeli forces killed another Hamas commander and at least six other Palestinians as violence in the Gaza Strip worsened Thursday. But an Army jeep was hit by an antitank missile, wounding the five soldiers riding in it - an attack for which Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. Israel, which plans to withdraw its troops and settlements from the strip, is trying to stabilize conditions there first. But critics say the evacuation would put population centers inside Israel proper within range of homemade Palestinian rockets.

Five American soldiers were killed and 20 others were hurt when mortar rounds fired by terrorists in Samarra, Iraq, landed on their headquarters. An Iraqi guardsman and three civilians also died and four more were wounded in a day of violence that also included gunfights in the streets. Meanwhile, the Philippine government stopped any more civilian contractors from traveling to Iraq and offered to help those already there who want to return home. It acted after other terrorists portrayed on a videotape threatened to execute a Filipino hostage unless all his countrymen in Iraq are withdrawn.

A new dispute flared between the government of Sudan and the African Union (AU) over the latter's announcement that the 300 peacekeeping troops it is sending to the troubled Darfur region will protect civilians if they are attacked by Arab militiamen. The government, which reluctantly agreed to accept the AU troops in the first place, said their only responsibility must be the security of unarmed truce monitors on duty there. Protection of poor blacks in the region, more than 1 million of whom have been driven from their homes by the militias, is the responsibility of government forces, Sudan's foreign minister said.

Muslim terrorists are "recruiting new youths [and] indoctrinating them with separatist and religious ideologies," Thailand's prime minister said, conceding that government forces had failed to meet their deadline for quelling violence in the nation's southern region. Thaksin Shinawatra spoke as a hospital staffer and a local government official in Pattani Province were killed in drive-by shootings, bringing to more than 250 the number of deaths in the region since Jan. 4. Shinawatra pledged millions of dollars in aid to the affected provinces and deployed thousands of troops, but they have yet to arrest any terrorist leaders.

The smaller of the two communist rebel movements in Colombia had no immediate response to a proposal by President Alvaro Uribe to suspend hostilities in return for a cease-fire. The offer would not require the National Liberation Army to disband or turn in its weapons. The two sides have been trying for more than a month to find common ground that would facilitate peace negotiations.

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