Hamas is in full control of the Gaza Strip following days of bloody clashes with rival Palestinian faction Fatah. Hamas militants have seized the presidential compound in Gaza City following a week of fighting that’s left more than 100 dead. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed the Hamas-led government and declared a state of emergency.
Senior Abbas adviser Tayeb Abdel-Rahim: “We are declaring a state of emergency in all the Palestinian territories because of the criminal war in the Gaza Strip and the occupying of the Palestinian Authority security headquarters and the military coup of the armed militias that are working outside the law of the Palestinian legislation.”
Abbas says he will rule by presidential decree until conditions allow for early elections. But Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said his government will carry on.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh: “This evening, Mr. President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) took hasty decisions, and some of the people surrounding the president did not read the consequences on the public Palestinian arena. … The existing government will carry out its duties and tasks in the best possible way and will not give up on its national and ethical responsibilities towards the Palestinian people.”
The Occupied Territories are effectively split into two separate entities with Hamas in charge of Gaza and Fatah controlling the West Bank. The Bush administration appears to have settled on the outcome. There are reports today the White House will boost aid to Abbas while allowing Gaza to slip into further despair in order to weaken Hamas’ popular standing. On Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave her backing to Abbas.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “President Abbas has exercised his lawful authority as president of Palestinian Authority and as leader of the Palestinian people. I’d remind everyone, he was elected in 2005 by a large margin, and we fully support him in his decision to try and end the crisis for the Palestinian people and return to peace and a better future.”
In Iraq, at least 13 Sunni mosques have come under fire since Wednesday’s attack on the Askariya shrine in Samarra. Despite the attacks, Iraq has avoided a surge in violence that followed the first bombing of the Shia shrine last year. Thirty-three bodies were found in Baghdad Thursday — a relative low for the past several months. Insurgents fired a barrage of rockets into the Baghdad Green Zone, hitting a street Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte had visited just minutes before. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has announced five U.S. troops have been killed over the last day.
In other Iraq news, another Iraqi journalist has been killed. Voices of Iraq correspondent Aref Ali died Monday while on assignment in Diyala province. Ali is the third Voices of Iraq correspondent slain in two weeks.
Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby could be behind bars within two months. On Thursday, a federal judge denied Libby’s attempt to delay the start of his sentence. Libby was convicted in March on four felony counts of making false statements to the FBI, lying to a grand jury and obstructing a probe into the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity. Administration officials outed Plame after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, publicly challenged the Bush administration’s case for going to war on Iraq. Meanwhile, Judge Reggie Walton said he had received several threatening letters after handing down Libby’s two-and-a-half-year sentence. Walton also criticized a brief from 12 law professors, including Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, that argued Libby should avoid jail time. Walton said: “The submission was not something I would expect from a first-year law student.” Libby could still avoid prison if President Bush grants him a pardon.
In Mississippi, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan has been found guilty of kidnapping and conspiracy in connection with the murder of two black teenagers in 1964. James Ford Seale was first arrested shortly after the killings, but the charges were thrown out after the FBI turned the case over to local authorities. The Justice Department reopened the case two years ago. During the trial, Seale’s cousin Charles Marcus Edwards testified he and Seale had abducted and attacked the black teenagers. Edwards said Seale and other Klansmen then drove the teenagers across the Louisiana border. They put duct tape over their mouths and dumped them into the Mississippi River alive. The victims, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, were both 19 years old. Their bodies were found about two months later, when authorities were conducting an intensive search for slain civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. Seale could face life in prison.
In Lebanon, thousands of people observed a national day of mourning for the killing of 10 people including the lawmaker Walid Eido. Eido was the sixth leading anti-Syrian campaigner slain in the last two years. Syria denies involvement in the attack. Meanwhile, U.N. envoy Michael Williams emerged from a meeting with Syria’s vice president, who condemned the bombing.
U.N. envoy Michael Williams: “I did discuss with the vice president the situation in Lebanon, and I was very pleased to know that the Syrian government issued a very strong condemnation of the tragic assassination which took place in Beirut yesterday.”
The U.S. has rejected a Russian offer to host a jointly run missile shield in Azerbaijan as an alternative to sites in Eastern Europe. Speaking at a NATO meeting in Belgium, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. will continue with plans in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “Yes, I was very explicit in the meeting that we saw the Azeri radar as an additional capability, that we intended to proceed with the radar, the X-band radar, in the Czech Republic.”
In Mexico, thousands of people marched through Oaxaca City Thursday to mark the first anniversary of a bloody crackdown on striking school teachers that sparked last year’s popular uprising. At least 15 people were killed in the months of protests against state Governor Ulises Ruiz.
Teachers union spokesperson Daniel Rosas Romero: “We can still remember the arrest warrants, the investigations prior to the arrests. We are demanding the cancellation of these arrests and the total freedom of political prisoners who were arrested during that time, on May 22, 2006, when the camps were set up.”
Meanwhile, a reporter for the Mexican newspaper Tiempo is in stable condition after being shot by unknown assailants. Misael Sánchez Sarmiento had received death threats over his investigative reporting on the shooting death of the U.S. journalist Brad Will. Will was killed while covering the Oaxaca uprising last October.
On Capitol Hill, Senate leaders have reached an agreement that puts the immigration bill back on the table. Lawmakers have agreed to consider 11 new amendments from Democrats and Republicans.
In other news from Washington, the Justice Department has announced it will expand its internal probe into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys to look at whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to influence the testimony of his former senior aide Monica Goodling. Goodling has told lawmakers Gonzales made her uncomfortable when he tried to compare notes on how the firings occurred.
In environmental news, the National Climatic Data Center has announced global temperatures this year have tied with the warmest period on record, set in 1998.
A former prisoner swept up in the post-9/11 crackdown on Arab and Muslim males in the United States has won a motion to continue a lawsuit accusing several government officials of ethnic and religious discrimination. Javaid Iqbal says he suffered physical and verbal abuse while spending more than 150 days in solitary confinement without a hearing. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller are among those accused in the case.
An internal probe has concluded the FBI may have committed more than 1,000 breaches of the law or agency rules while gathering data on phone calls, emails and financial transactions in the United States. The probe covers just 10 percent of FBI investigations, meaning the actual number of violations could top 10,000. Most of the breaches came in cases where agents retained phone and email records mistakenly provided by service providers.
Here in New York, a federal judge has reversed his own order that had put strict limits on police spying on protests and events. In February, Judge Charles Haight ruled that police must stop the routine videotaping of people at public gatherings unless there was an indication that unlawful activity may occur. Judge Haight had cited two events that the police videotaped — a march in Harlem and a demonstration by homeless people in front of the Upper East Side home of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But this week Haight said he was vacating the order after city lawyers told him new information on the gatherings. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they’ll challenge the reversal.
In Washington state, a judge has dismissed charges against 16 people who took part in an antiwar protest at the Port of Tacoma. The accused were arrested as they tried to block the military from shipping Stryker armored vehicles to Iraq.
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