Hezbollah fighters drove abandoned tanks from village to village as they celebrated Israel’s sudden departure from south Lebanon.
Israel had occupied a deep swath of its northern neighbour for 22 years, and its swift pullout six weeks ahead of schedule ended what Prime Minister Ehud Barak said had been a “tragedy” for his country. Israel had initially announced it would pull its troops out of the 14-km buffer zone in July. But the sudden collapse of its ally, the South Lebanon Army militia, hastened its withdrawal. As many as 1,500 soldiers and civilians were imprisoned by the Syrian-backed Lebanese government. Another 7,000 refugees fled into Israel, where they are seeking asylum.
Emboldened Hezbollah guerrillas threatened to continue fighting if Israel did not withdraw from an area
known as the Shebaa Farms—a disputed plateau near the Golan Heights that Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and over which Lebanon claims sovereignty. But Barak warned both Hezbollah and the Lebanese government that any attack on Israel from Lebanon would now be viewed as an “act of war.” No target in Lebanon would be immune, he said in a veiled reference to Syria, which has 35,000 troops in Lebanon. But Barak also called for peace. “Israel,” he said, “extends its hand.”
China moves closer to the WTO
China hailed as “wise” a U.S. House of Representatives vote normalizing trade relations with the Asian giant and paving the way for its entry into the World Trade Organization. The legislation, which passed by a comfortable 237-to-197 vote, was a major victory for President Bill Clinton, who wanted China’s entry into the WTO to be a defining element of his presidency. Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji also staked his reputation on the vote and may have been forced to resign if it had failed. The U.S. Senate is now expected to pass the legislation.
Media deaths in a danger zone
Friends and colleagues observed a minute’s silence to honour Kurt Schork, 53, a reporter with Reuters news service, and Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, 32, a cameraman for Associated Press Television News, who were killed when rebels ambushed their vehicles in Sierra Leone. Schork
had covered the Gulf War and the Bosnian conflict; Gil Moreno de Mora had also covered the Balkans and Chechnya. Both died after coming under fire near Rogberi Junction, about 80 km east of the capital of Freetown. Two other Reuters journalists, South African cameraman Mark Chisholm and Greek photographer Yannis Behrakis, escaped with slight injuries. Four government soldiers also died at the scene.
Ethiopia captured the key border town of Zalembessa and advanced well into Eritrean territory. Faced with the renewed offensive, Eritrea had announced earlier in the week that it would withdraw from all territory it captured at the start of the border war in May, 1998, but Ethiopia said hostilities would end only when it had verified Eritrea’s withdrawal. Peace talks were scheduled for this week.
John and Patsy Ramsey, whose sixyear-old daughter, JonBenet, was murdered in December, 1996, said that a lie detector test, which they had arranged, cleared them of any involvement in her death. No charges have ever been laid in the murder, after a controversial investigation critics say was botched.
Standoff in Fiji
Rebels continued to hold Fiji’s prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and dozens of legislators hostage after an attempted coup on May 19. Chaudhry is the first leader of Fiji from its ethnic Indian minority, while rebel leader George Speight says he is acting on behalf of the Pacific island’s majority ethnic Fijians. In an attempt to defuse the crisis, President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara announced on Saturday that he had fired the government.
A break in the case
British police announced they had arrested an unidentified man for questioning in the April, 1999, shooting death of TV personality Jill Dando. The high-profile murder, which some sources say could have been a contract killing, resulted in an intense investigation involving 39 detectives.
Protests in China
With the June 4 anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising only days away, the Chinese regime was shaken by student protests at Beijing University. The demonstrations were in response to the recent murder of 19year-old student Qui Qingfeng, who was raped and killed after she was unable to find a bus home.
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