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News Briefs

Six Palestinians Die in Gaza Clash

THE WASHINGTON POST -- RAFAH, GAZA STRIP

After coming under fire from Palestinian gunmen, Israeli soldiers fired a tank cannon and heavy machine guns into the Rafah Refugee Camp Thursday, killing at least six Palestinians, wounding 45, and damaging shops, houses and a school, according to Palestinian witnesses, doctors and U.N. officials.

The attack, whose victims included a woman, 70, and two teenagers, raised the Palestinian death toll from Israeli missiles, gunfire and tank assaults to at least 65 in the last 10 weeks in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces have concentrated attacks recently in a drive against the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas.

The Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Olivier Rafowicz, expressed regret that civilians were hurt, but said the Israeli soldiers opened fire on the refugee camp after Palestinian gunmen shot at soldiers and engineers attempting to construct a new observation tower on the edge of the camp, which lies near the Gaza Strip’s southern border with Egypt.

Witnesses said soldiers in a 660-ton Merkava main battle tank fired its cannon into the camp three times, first hitting a small grocery shop, then smashing through the walls of a home and finally firing into a group of residents as they tried to rescue neighbors from their burning home. Soldiers also sprayed bullets from the tanks’ heavy-caliber machine guns into the camp, residents said.

Top Enron Trader Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy in California Energy

THE WASHINGTON POST

Enron Corp.’s former chief energy trader pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring with others at the company to manipulate California electricity prices, the first criminal charges stemming from the power crisis there two years ago.

Timothy Belden, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in federal court in San Francisco and agreed to hand over $2.1 million in salary and bonuses traceable to the alleged scheme. He was released on a $500,000 bond.

Court papers didn’t identify other Enron officials who allegedly joined Belden in the conspiracy and prosecutors declined to pinpoint where they’ll focus their attention next. But the energy trading accusations open a second front in multi-agency pursuit of Enron executives.

The company’s former chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow, and a deputy, Michael Kopper, have been charged with stealing millions of dollars from the company though complex financial transactions that led to its bankruptcy last December.

Pakistani Troops Withdraw

From Border

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- ISLAMABAD

Following India’s step back from the brink, Pakistan announced Thursday it will begin withdrawing several hundred thousand troops from front-line positions on the two nations’ border.

But even as the months-long military standoff eased, Indian security forces claimed they killed five suspected guerrillas slipping into Indian-controlled Kashmir, a bloody reminder that the 55-year dispute over that region is far from over.

Pakistan’s announcement that it will withdraw its troops to “peacetime locations” followed India’s statement Wednesday that it would start a phased pullback of forces from the border. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met with top commanders and the withdrawal to begin Monday, a military source said.

Both countries said they will keep their troops dug in along the Line of Control, the 460-mile-long cease-fire line in disputed Kashmir drawn at the end of the their 1971 war. The line is still the scene of frequent, and often deadly, clashes between Indian forces and separatist guerrillas in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.