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Hamas claimed responsibility for almost simultaneous bomb explosions aboard two buses in Israel, the first major terrorist attacks there since mid-March. At least 15 people died and more than 80 others were hurt as the blasts ripped through the vehicles near a busy intersection in the city of Beersheba. Hamas said the attacks were in retaliation for the assassinations of its two top leaders earlier this year. Another harsh Israeli response is probable, analysts said. Earlier in the day, border police in the Gaza Strip captured another would-be Palestinian bomber who was wearing a previously unseen type of explosive belt, sewn in the shape of a pair of underpants.

The attacks in Beersheba came as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a revised timetable for Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip - modifying it so that all 21 Jewish settlements there would be evacuated early next year, five months sooner than originally proposed. He had planned to submit the revision to his Likud Party when the bombs exploded, and to parliament Nov. 3, a day after the US elections.

Efforts to win the freedom of two French journalists taken hostage by terrorists in Iraq took on new urgency after a militants' website showed gruesome pictures of 12 captives from Nepal being executed. The website said the Nepalis, who worked as cooks and cleaners, were killed for cooperating with US troops. The kidnappers of the journalists are demanding that the French government rescind by tonight its ban on the wearing of head scarves in schools by Muslim girls. The government so far has refused.

More than half a ton of explosives were seized in a raid by security units near Afghani-stan's capital a day after terrorists killed 12 people in a massive explosion. Intelligence officials said three suspected followers of hardline Islamic militant Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also were arrested. Hekmatyar is allied with the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for Sunday's blast in Kabul and has warned of more to come.

"Dozens of spies" have been arrested for passing Iran's nuclear secrets to its enemies, the Tehran government's Intelligence Ministry said. It linked most of them to the People's Mujahideen, an organization of dissidents, but did not say when the arrests took place or discuss the fate of those in custody. On the basis of information leaked in August 2002, the world learned of two undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran, which the US says are a screen for building weapons of mass destruction.

Six months after prosecutors rested their case against him, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic opened his own defense before the UN war-crimes tribunal in The Hague. Appearing relaxed, Milosevic said the accusations against him are "unscrupulous" and claimed he is the victim of a centuries-old anti-Serb bias. He has 150 days to conclude his presentation.

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