Palestinian militants raised the possibility of a new round of violence in the Gaza Strip Thursday by ambushing an Army patrol on the Israeli side of the border and rocketing a house in the town of Sderot. No one was hurt in the latter attack, authorities said. But a soldier died and three others were wounded when a bomb went off beside their jeep. A rescue crew also came under fire as it responded to the incident. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for both attacks.
President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya urged the opening session of parliament to act swiftly on legislation authorizing the new post of prime minister, a key feature of the power-sharing deal he agreed to with opposition leader Raila Odinga (above, r.). "The agreement is in the best interest of the country" and would go "a long way in ensuring peace and stability," Kibaki (l.) said Thursday. The responsibilities of the prime ministership have yet to be defined, however, and no vote on the issue was expected immediately.
A meeting between US and Iranian diplomats on security in Iraq did not take place Thursday, and the latter delegation was returning home after the Bush administration insisted that no such get-together had been planned. No new date apparently was set for what would be the fourth round of talks on the subject. Against that backdrop, a senior US military spokesman in Baghdad said 2,000 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were being sent home from Iraq and "there is no replacement brigade combat team coming in."
By a 2-to-1 margin, the coalition government of Serbia rejected a bid to end the pursuit of membership in the European Union until the latter withdraws recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. The coalition is dominated by pro-Western liberals, and the move was seen as a defeat for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Kostunica supported a resolution drafted by ultranationalists in parliament demanding the EU state "clearly and unequivocally" that Kosovo remains part of Serbia. But the resolution has yet to come before the full parliament, where the ultranationalists hold a majority, and their spokesman predicted it would pass and become binding on the government.
Although it apparently won't be aired on TV, a new film that criticizes the Koran has caused the terrorism alert in the Netherlands to be raised to its second-highest level, reports said Thursday. The film, produced by right-wing politician Geert Wilders, has spawned angry protests in the Islamic world. The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant surveyed public and commercial stations and found that none were prepared to show the film because Wilders has demanded that it not be edited. He reportedly was planning to present it at a news conference instead.
Despite suggestions to the contrary, there will be no change in China's one-child rule, the a senior government official said. Zhang Weiqing, who is in charge of family planning for the People's Political Consultative Conference, said allowing couples to produce more than one child now could bring increased pressure on future development. His comments appeared to overrule those of two lower-ranking officials who said last week that "relevant departments" were discussing a relaxation of the policy, at least on an "incremental" basis.
More than 15 million residents of Pakistan's largest city were without electricity Thursday after the national utility cut service because of unpaid bills. By midafternoon, 70 percent of Karachi still had not been reconnected. The city is home to the nation's stock exchange and two seaports. Pakistan Electric Supply Co. said Karachi owes it more than $550 million.
Saying, "I've seen with my own eyes what a difference a cup of porridge can made in a child's life," actress Drew Barrymore donated $1 million to the World Food Program. The UN agency, which is conducting a campaign to raise $3 billion to feed school pupils in developing countries, said her contribution would be applied to Kenya. The "Charlie's Angels" star already serves as a WFP ambassador against hunger.