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World in brief

8 Palestinians killed in clashes

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2003

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip -- Israel's week-old military offensive against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip intensified Sunday, and six Palestinians were killed and 28 wounded in a raid on a Palestinian town from which homemade rockets have been fired at Israeli communities.

Two more Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed elsewhere in Gaza.

In response to Sunday's army assault, Hamas militants fired three more short-range Qassam rockets from Beit Hanoun, and one hit near a strip mall in the Israeli town of Sderot, about 700 yards away. The rocket caused some panic but no injuries.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the military would maintain "relentless" pressure on Islamic militants in Gaza to halt the rocket fire. The offensive began Feb. 17, a day after a Hamas attack on an Israeli tank killed four soldiers in Gaza. Since then, 32 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed in Gaza.

In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon moved closer to establishing a new government as he signed up his first coalition partner: the National Religious Party that opposes Palestinian statehood and advocates Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

With the NRP as an ally, it appeared unlikely Sharon would freeze settlement construction, a key requirement of a U.S.-backed "road map" to Palestinian statehood by 2005. The coalition deal also appeared to have ended Sharon's efforts of bringing in the moderate Labor party, which was trounced in a Jan. 28 election.

The secular Shinui also is expected to join a Sharon-led coalition, giving him a slim 61-seat majority in the 120-member parliament.

Strike leader under house arrest

CARACAS, Venezuela -- A leading opponent of President Hugo Chavez who helped lead a two-month national strike was put under house arrest Sunday after a judge struck down a treason charge but left standing two other serious counts.

Carlos Fernandez, president of the Fedecamaras business chamber, was seized Wednesday by federal agents. An arrest order was issued for another strike leader who is in hiding.

A judge struck down three of the charges against Fernandez, including treason, in a 13-hour closed-door hearing that ended early Sunday. The court upheld charges of rebellion and incitement, said Pedro Berrizbeitia, one of the business leader's defense lawyers.

Newton predicted end of world in 2060, TV network says, based on document

JERUSALEM -- Sir Isaac Newton predicted that the world will end in 57 years, a TV network said, based on a document from a Jerusalem archive, but a library official said Sunday he has not seen it.

Newton's somber prediction was unearthed by a Canadian researcher as part of a British Broadcasting Corp. documentary, Newton: The Dark Heretic.

In a statement promoting the program, to be aired Saturday, the BBC said it will show a handwritten Newton document predicting the end of the world in 2060, according to calculations he made based on the Bible. The BBC said the document was found in a Newton collection in the Jewish National Library in Jerusalem.

Raphael Weiser, director of the library's manuscripts and archives department, said Sunday that Canadian academic Stephen Snobelen had worked extensively on its Newton collection and had brought a BBC camera crew with him, but Weiser said he had not seen whatever document the program intended to present as evidence.

Newton, who died in 1727, won immortality for formulating the law of gravity, but he also was a theologian who wrote more than a million words on biblical subjects.

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