World briefs 2/24/06

Friday, February 24, 2006

Five Palestinians killed by Israeli army gunfire

BALATA REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank -- Israeli troops on Thursday killed five Palestinians, including a top militant who said just a day earlier that he would never be caught, in Israel's largest military sweep since pulling out from the Gaza Strip last summer. Three of the dead were gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades -- a violent offshoot of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party -- killed during a shootout in their hide-out in the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank. The deaths brought to eight the number of Palestinians killed by army fire since the Balata sweep began Monday. More than 50 have been wounded by live rounds and rubber-coated steel pellets, Palestinian hospital officials said.

China frees man jailed during 1989 protest

BEIJING -- A man who was jailed for throwing paint on Mao Zedong's portrait in Beijing's Tiananmen Square during pro-democracy protests in 1989 has been released after nearly 17 years in prison, his family said Thursday. Yu Dongyue's release early Wednesday came ahead of a U.S. visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao in April. It did not appear to be meant as a gesture to Washington: Yu served his full sentence, unlike other prisoners who have been released early in connection with diplomatic trips. "This has absolutely nothing to do with Hu Jintao's visit," said John Kamm, director of the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, which studies Chinese prisons. There are at least 70, and possibly as many as 300, prisoners still serving sentences for convictions stemming from the 1989 protests, Kamm said.

Condoleezza Rice makes surprise visit to Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hinted Thursday the United States would welcome the exit of Lebanon's pro-Syrian president. She praised democratic progress by other leaders in the country's fractured sectarian politics. The top U.S. diplomat's surprise visit to the Lebanese capital came days after major demonstrations there against Syria's control over Lebanon. Rice neared the close of a four-nation Middle East trip that has seen U.S. allies snub her efforts to halt aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian government. But the journey has also let her highlight an emerging democratic success story in the region, with nearly a year passing since a flowering of street protests forced Syrian troops to leave Lebanon after three decades of domination. She said she came to Lebanon "to affirm the firm support of the United States of America for the Lebanese people as they work to have a fully sovereign, democratic Lebanon" that represents Lebanese of all religions, Rice said.

-- From wire reports

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