Israeli security forces arrested 10 leading Hamas figures in the West Bank Thursday, saying they were attempting to restore the militant organization's "administrative branch." The move came two days after negotiations for a proposed trade of prisoners failed. It appeared to be an Israeli bid to ratchet up pressure on Hamas to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. In the Gaza Strip, a Hamas spokesman called the arrests "immoral blackmail."
Law-enforcement officials in Mexico announced the capture Thursday of Vicente Zambada, the son of one of the nation's top two drug traffickers. The younger Zambada is believed to have served as chief of operations and security for the feared Sinaloa cocaine cartel. The US has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of his father, Ismael. Jesus Zambada, an uncle and also a cartel chief, was captured in Mexico City last October.
As many as 1 million people walked off their jobs across France Thursday in another protest against President Nicolas Sarkozy's handling of the economy. The strike disrupted air and rail service, schools, hospitals, mail delivery, and electric power generation. Protesters held a similar strike in January, although it lacked the impact of the massive strikes of the mid-1990s.
The price of crude oil for deliveries next month appeared likely to close in the $51-a-barrel range in trading Thursday, its highest since the end of November. Analysts attributed the rise – 6 percent in the past 24 hours – to the US Federal Reserve's move to buy government bonds. But some analysts said the $50 threshold may not be sustained because of generally weak global demand for oil.
Members of the Southern African Development Community refused Thursday to recognize the self-declared new president of Madagascar. Speaking for his own government, Zambia's foreign minister called the takeover of power by former opposition leader Andry Rajoelina "a danger to the entrenchment of democracy" and said it "should not be allowed to take root."
A group of US, European, and Canadian tourists was preparing to wind up a vacation trip to Iraq, the first by foreign nationals since Saddam Hussein's regime fell in 2003, the government said Thursday. The trip was organized by a British package-tour operator and included stops at landmark historic sites, Shiite Muslim shrines, and the reopened National Museum.
In a first for both Japan and Ukraine, their governments have signed a contract to trade greenhouse gas emission rights, reports said Thursday. The deal, under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, calls for Japan to buy 30 million tons worth of Assigned Amount Units for an undisclosed sum that Ukraine will use for renewable energy projects. Other contracts with Eastern European countries are expected to follow, a Japanese government source said. Japan is projected to fall short of its commitment to cut emissions by 2012.
A court in St. Poelten, Austria, sentenced admitted rapist Josef Fritzl to a life term in a psychiatric hospital Thursday for imprisoning his own daughter and fathering her seven children. Fritzl told the court he accepted the verdict of the eight-person jury, meaning it cannot be appealed.
Scientists were en route Thursday to the site of a spectacular undersea volcanic eruption that was sending columns of gas, steam, and ash seven miles high off Tonga in the South Pacific. The eruption , in its fourth day, was not yet considered dangerous to residents. But geologists said its climatic effect would need to be reassessed if it continued to grow. It was causing flights to and from New Zealand to be diverted, and witnesses reported seeing dead sea birds.