News In Brief

Venting frustration at the failure of their leadership to proclaim statehood on the expiration date of the Oslo accords, hundreds of Palestinians protested in the streets of West Bank and Gaza towns. The most militant demonstrations were in Hebron, where masked men chanted "Statehood is our right," fired automatic weapons into the air and heaved firebombs and stones at Israeli troops. The Israelis retaliated with rubber bullets, wounding at least 17 demonstrators.

"It's the fourth of May, and there is no declaration of Palestinian statehood," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a hastily arranged news conference. He called Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat "a wise man" for withholding a proclamation. For their part, Palestinian leaders planned no special ceremonies to mark the end of the interim autonomy deal, although one official said statehood "is inevitable, whether the Israeli government likes it or not."

Despite President Clinton's hint of "a pause" in the bombing of Yugoslavia if NATO demands for a troop pullout from Kosovo were met, airstrikes against Serb ground units Monday were the most intensive since the assault began March 24, an alliance spokesman said. And, in the first reported air-to-air confrontation since the early days of the war, a Yugoslav fighter jet was shot down. Meanwhile, alliance officials suggested that causes other than a NATO bomb may have destroyed a bus packed with civilians in Kosovo Monday, describing the site as "ambush territory" in clashes between Serb forces and Kosovo Liberation Army rebels.

Five more months of caretaker government were in store for India after the national elections commission decided that voting for a new Parliament could not be held before September. Without setting a specific date, the commissioners said it would take at least until the end of July just to update voter rolls. The Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Vajpayee had wanted the election next month to capitalize on public sympathy for his recent failure to win a no-confidence motion in Parliament. The powerful opposition Congress Party wanted the latest possible date to better organize its campaign.

Army troops were acting in self-defense when they fired on civilian demonstrators in restive Aceh province, senior Indonesian commanders maintained. Gen. Wiranto, the armed forces chief, said he "really regretted" the violence Monday in which as many as 28 people died and 81 others were wounded. But military accounts continued to be at odds with those of witnesses. The Army claimed protesters had fired first; others said the civilians were unarmed and that the trouble began because of stone-throwing. Reinforcements reportedly were arriving to help patrol the area.

A massive heroes' welcome led by President Fidel Castro greeted the all-star team of Cuban baseball players as they returned to Havana following a 12-6 thrashing of the Baltimore Orioles in the second of two exhibition games. But reports said at least one member of the Cuban delegation failed to board the team plane home and was seeking asylum in the US.

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