Palestinians demand attacks to stop

JERUSALEM

A senior Hamas commander died in an Israeli helicopter strike in Gaza late yesterday, the Israeli military said, and five other Palestinians were killed in separate incidents.

Tension ran high amid expectations of further violence. Because of the flare-up, U.S. officials put a truce mediation effort by envoy Anthony Zinni on indefinite hold.

In Gaza after nightfall, witnesses said an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a car, killing one Palestinian and wounding two others.

The Israeli military identified the dead Palestinian as Adli Hamdan and said he was the senior Hamas commander in Khan Younis, responsible for dozens of attacks.

But Palestinians gave a differing description. They identified him as Bakr Hamdan, a member of the Hamas military wing and a relative of the top Hamas leader in the Gaza city of Khan Younis.

The attack took place in the Khan Younis refugee camp. It was the latest Israeli targeted killing of suspected militants in Palestinian areas. Palestinians denounce the attacks are assassinations and demand that they be stopped.

Greenspan: U.S. recession could be near

WASHINGTON

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday there are mounting signs the economy is recovering from recession, an upbeat assessment that encouraged Wall Street.

Those comments pulled the stock market lower, but Greenspan”s more optimistic remarks to the Senate Budget Committee yesterday helped push stocks solidly higher. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 65.52 points at 9,796.48.

Asked by lawmakers about his changed tone, Greenspan said he had been trying on Jan. 11 to dampen expectations on Wall Street that the economy would come roaring back this year. He said the rebound will probably be less robust, given that the recession has been a mild one.

“The markets, however, had been assuming a far more rapid snap-back than I, frankly, think is likely to happen,” Greenspan said.

But he said he had overdone his pessimism. “That created, unfortunately, I think, phraseology, which in retrospect I should have done differently,” Greenspan said. He said his comments implied “that I didn”t think the economy was in the process of turning, and I tried to rectify that in today”s remarks.”

Lebanese warlord killed in bombing

BEIRUT, Lebanon

A former Lebanese Christian warlord who was linked to the 1982 massacre of Palestinians at two refugee camps during his country”s civil war was killed yesterday in a car bombing. Three bodyguards also were killed.

A previously unknown group claimed responsibility, saying it killed Elie Hobeika, to protest Syria”s meddling in Lebanese affairs. Hobeika was a Syrian ally.

Hobeika led the right-wing Lebanese Forces militia, which tore through the Sabra and Chatilla Palestinian refugee camps in Muslim west Beirut 20 years ago, slaughtering hundreds of men, women and children.

The militia was allied with Israel, and an Israeli commission of inquiry later found that then-defense minister Ariel Sharon now the prime minister was indirectly responsible for the killings.

Campaign finance bill sent to the floor

WASHINGTON

Supporters of campaign finance legislation claimed victory yesterday in their drive to force the issue to the House floor, setting the stage for a vote this year on a bill to reduce the role of money in political campaigns.

“The American people deserve a full debate about how campaigns are financed,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass), who provided the 218th signature on a legislative petition to force the bill to the floor.

No date was immediately set for debate and vote on the bill, which would make the most far-reaching changes in the nation”s political finance system since the Watergate reforms of a quarter-century ago.

The bill would virtually ban soft money, the unlimited donations that unions, corporations and individuals make to the political parties.

Religious leaders join Pope in non-violence

ASSISI, Italy

Declaring that religious people must repudiate violence following the Sept. 11 attacks, Pope John Paul II led an extraordinary assembly of patriarchs and imams, rabbis and monks yesterday in this historic hilltop town in praying for peace.

Buddhist chants and Christian hymns resounded inside a huge plastic tent decorated with a single olive tree.

About 200 religious leaders accepted the pope”s invitation to the daylong retreat and agreed on a joint, 10-point pledge proclaiming that religion must never be used to justify violence.

John Paul, looking down at a display of turbans, veils and yarmulkes from a red-carpeted stage, said religious leaders must fend off “the dark clouds of terrorism, hatred, armed conflict, which in these last few months have grown particularly ominous on humanity”s horizon.”

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