Palestinian militants fired a homemade rocket into Israel Tuesday from a northern Gaza town that defense forces from the Jewish state had vacated only hours before after their biggest operation in the strip in more than a year. Beit Hanoun's mayor said 52 Palestinians were killed and 440 houses were destroyed or damaged in a week-long Israeli mission aimed at rooting out militants responsible for the rocket launches. Operation Autumn Clouds uncovered large caches of weaponry, a military spokesman said.

Rival political leaders scheduled another meeting for Thursday to try to cobble together a unity government in Lebanon that would avoid threatened mass demonstrations by Hizbullah supporters. The Syrian-backed militant Islamic organization is demanding a greater say in running the country, whose government is dominated by Christian, anti-Syrian politicians. Hizbullah has five of the 24 posts in Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's cabinet, and has given him until Monday to add at least three more or it will stage protests to topple the government.

Anti-government protests turned violent in Kyrgyzstan Tuesday, as supporters and opponents of embattled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev fought in the capital's central square. Interior Ministry troops separated them but not before six people were hurt, one of them seriously. The already tense situation worsened Monday night as opposition members of parliament tried to preempt the president's proposed new constitution with one of their own, stripping him of many of his powers. Bakiyev called the move illegal and threatened to dissolve the legislature.

Five more people were shot to death and a local school was destroyed by fire in new violence blamed on Muslim separatists in southern Thailand Tuesday, prompting Prime Minister Sura-yud Chulanont to announce his second trip to the region in less than a week. The latest casualties came despite Surayud's apology for the hard-line policies imposed there by his predecessor, the release from prison of 92 Muslims who'd participated in antigovernment protests, and the government's agreement to pay compensation to families of 79 other demonstrators who died while in military custody.

A national election that foreign observers criticized as suspect gave President Emomali Rakh-manov a new seven-year term in Tajikistan. He won 79.3 percent of the vote, the elections commission said Tuesday. But the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe blasted the process, saying it "did not provide an adequate test of Tajikistan's commitment to democratic elections." Before the vote, interviewers found few people who knew anything about the four challengers on the ballot. But Rakhmanov, who has held power since 1994, said Tajikistan has "a completely different culture; you have to take that into account." The Muslim ex-Soviet republic has become a vital link in efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.

Nine hundred more coal mines will be closed in the region of China that produces almost one-third of the nation's fuel, the Xinhua news agency reported. The order, affecting Shanxi Province, will be implemented by mid-2008, it said. Mines there are among China's worst in terms of safety, and provincial officials already had closed 1,156 in the year ending June 30. The order came as rescue crews found two more victims in a Shanxi mine where an explosion Sunday killed 17 workers. Despite a crackdown on safety, 345 Chinese miners died last month alone, Xinhua said.

The worst tornado on record in Japan was blamed for at least nine deaths, dozens of injuries, and massive property damage as it roared through a town on Hokkaido island, 620 miles north of Tokyo. Rescue and cleanup efforts were being hampered by heavy rain. Tornadoes are relatively rare in Japan, and none had struck that area since record-keeping began in 1961.

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