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Unidentified gunmen executed a local judge in the Gaza Strip Wednesday, escalating tensions even further between the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas. A spokesman for the latter identified the victim as a member of his movement as well as a commander in its military wing and accused Fatah of responsibility for the killing. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, in Sudan to accept a $10 million donation from its government, said he'd return to Gaza Thursday. He blasted the deployment of security forces in the strip by President Mahmoud Abbas and said the way to stop tit-for-tat violence between their factions was to respect Hamas's election victory.

Militiamen of the Islamic Courts Union (UIC), backed by thousands of foreigners, are positioning themselves for an attack on Somalia's interim government base, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said Wednesday. "We are in a crucial situation," he told Reuters, adding that all-out war appeared "inevitable." Witnesses said they saw an Ethi-opian Army convoy towing heavy artillery pieces toward what would be the front line in a battle for Baidoa. Ethiopia is estimated to have committed as many as 10,000 soldiers to help defend Gedi's government, and earlier this week the UIC gave them seven days to leave or face "a major attack." But Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi scoffed at the threat and said it would be "very unfortunate" if the situation is not resolved peacefully.

For the third time in less than a week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out at neighboring Pakistan, accusing it of seeking to enslave his people. His remarks, which reports said have been increasing in stridency, came on the heels of the most intense year of terrorism in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001. Karzai has long complained that Pakistan does too little to stop cross-border terrorism and he has accused government officials there of supporting the resurgent Taliban. Pakistan's foreign minister suggested that Karzai was looking for a scapegoat because of Afghanistan's "difficulties."

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The caretaker government of the Netherlands was in crisis over the refusal of Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk to halt the deportations of illegal aliens and rejected asylum-seekers. Parliament censured her Wednesday for defying its order, which would affect about 26,000 people. It was not immediately clear whether she'd step down, although her VVD Party said it would pull out of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition if she were forced to resign. Three weeks ago, Dutch voters gave parliament a left-leaning majority, partly on the basis of a campaign to pardon the immigrants. But it has yet to complete coalition talks and be installed.

Amid reports that the new military government of Fiji is running out of money, coup leader Frank Bainimarama sought to reassure foreigners Wednesday that the island nation remains a safe place for them to invest. But economists warned that it is at risk of a severe recession, with sugar growers complaining of the need for assistance and the tourist arrivals off by 80 percent since the political crisis began. Meanwhile, Fijian news outlets reported that unidentified "traditional warriors" have threatened to assassinate Bainimarama unless he restored democratic rule by Christmas.

More than 2,000 tips have been telephoned to police in the past two days in the biggest serial murder case in England in decades, reports said. A manhunt was under way around the port city of Ipswich in Suffolk County for the killer of five young women. The victims are believed to have been engaged in prostitution, and authorities were urging other prostitutes to stay off the streets for their safety. Prime Minister Blair's government is monitoring the situation, and a newspaper has offered a reward of £250,000 ($490,000) for the capture of the killer.

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