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Four more Palestinian militants were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip Thursday, and the Jewish state rejected Hamas's offer of a truce. The latest casualties bring to at least 16 the number killed in Gaza this week, and an aide to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire would continue. The aide said Israel would not deal with Hamas until the latter recognizes its right to exist, renounces violence, and accepts past peace accords.

Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka denied that their leader had been hurt in an airstrike by government planes. The Defense Ministry said its intelligence confirmed that Velupillai Prabhakaran was in a bunker in the north of the island when it was hit Nov. 26 and that he required medical treatment. Analysts said the denial may have been issued to prevent rebel ranks from becoming demoralized. Earlier in November, Prabhakaran's deputy, S.P. Thamilselvan, was killed in a similar raid.

New bank notes were issued in Zimbabwe Thursday to cope with a cash shortage so severe that worried depositors have been seen sleeping outside their banks. The new bills are denominated $250,000, $500,000, and $750,000. They replace the highest-value note – $200,000 – which had been issued in July. Above, a passer-by hands invalid $200,000 bills to a child on a street in Harare, the capital.

In a scene reminiscent of neighboring Hong Kong, hundreds of Macao residents (some of them above) staged a march for democracy Thursday. It came on the eighth anniversary of China's takeover of the gambling haven, a former Portuguese enclave. The protesters said official corruption prevents the working class from reaping benefit from the casino industry. China rules Macao with a firm hand, and political dissent there is rare.

No opposition candidate won election to parliament in Kyrgyz-stan, and – contrary to earlier indications – the Supreme Court did not overturn a new rule establishing a minimum threshold for victory, the BBC reported. It said the final vote-count awarded seats to three parties besides the ruling Ak Jol, but all are supporters of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Angry opposition leaders vowed to stage "large-scale" protests of the outcome.

Reelection to a third term appears certain for President Islam Karimov when voters in Uzbekistan go to the polls Sunday, despite a constitutional limit of two terms for the post. None of his three rivals has campaigned actively, and the former Soviet republic's most outspoken dissidents are in jails, mental hospitals, or in exile. Karimov, considered among the most repressive rulers in Central Asia also has denied international news organizations accreditation to cover the election.

The casualty count from Wednes-day's train derailment in southern Pakistan was lowered by authorities to 40 dead and 269 injured. Early reports had put the number of deaths at 58. State-run Pakistani Railways also said the damaged section of track was repaired, allowing service to resume at the peak of the holiday travel period.

Amid intensive security precautions, parliament in the Solomon Islands elected ex-education chief Derek Sikua as prime minister. The post had been vacant since last week, when legislators voted to oust controversial Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. Sikua said he'd make improved relations with regional powers Australia and New Zealand a priority after they became strained under Sogavare. Two years ago, islanders rioted after the election of an unpopular prime minister.

A strong earthquake off the coast of New Zealand's North Island knocked out electricity and caused property damage but no casualties, early reports said. The quake, with a magnitude of 6.8, hit the city of Gisborne hardest, collapsing buildings and a section of highway. New Zealand records thousands of earthquakes a year, most of them small.

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