With Israeli forces widening control over West Bank areas, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Cabinet was exploring the legality of expelling the families of Palestinian bombers. Meanwhile, Hamas angrily protested the arrests of several of its members and those of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip by Palestinian police. The two groups are responsible for many suicide attacks, and under heavy international pressure Yasser Arafat has ordered his security forces to "find and stop" any future missions.

In an about-face, a group of North Korean asylum-seekers holed up in Beijing will be permitted to go to rival South Korea, Chinese government officials announced. China previously had demanded their surrender as "security risks." The decision affects 24 people. It followed a month-long diplomatic standoff over their fate and intensive negotiations with South Korean officials since most of them were in the latter nation's embassy.

At least 245 people were killed in a powerful earthquake that struck eight provinces of Iran Saturday. The quake, measured at an intensity of 6.3, also injured an estimated 1,500 others and left 25,000 homeless, emergency officials said. Iran declined an offer of aid from the Bush administration but said it would "welcome any help" from nongovernmental organizations. Above, searchers move through a devastated village.

A new tape-recorded message broadcast over an Arabic satellite TV channel claims Osama bin Laden and his top aide are alive and that the US should "fasten its seat belt" because more terrorist attacks are imminent. The tape, aired by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, purportedly was recorded by a Kuwaiti spokesman for Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, an Arabic website was promoting a July 4 "hate-filled" videotaped by bin Laden himself, London's Sunday Mirror reported.

A $1,000 reward was offered by the government of the Philippines for the remains of Muslim extremist leader Abu Sa-baya after an Army unit reported it had killed him as he tried to escape a firefight. Two others in his Abu Sayyaf group also died and four were captured. Sabaya's personal effects were found near where he had attempted to swim to safety.

Defying a threat to arrest him, former Madagascar President Didier Ratsiraka returned home from France, insisting that his long and often violent struggle for power with newly inaugurated Marc Ravalomanana is not over. Ratsiraka left Paris Thursday for a weekend conference of African leaders in Ethiopia, in which they recommended that the Indian Ocean island nation hold a new presidential election. Ravalomanana rejected the move as irrelevant.

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