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In brief: Fighting marks tension-filled Land Day


Jerusalem – Clashes erupted Friday between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as Israeli security troops remained on high alert throughout the country and along its borders for Land Day.

Land Day commemorates a 1976 mass demonstration protesting Israel’s confiscation of Arab lands for building Jewish communities.

Clashes broke out at Qalandia checkpoint, where demonstrators burned tires and threw stones as they advanced toward the Israeli side. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades and used a wide arsenal of riot-dispersal systems, including the foul-smelling “Skunk” and “Scream,” a system that unleashes a high-frequency blast of sound.

Violent encounters took place in several other West Bank locations including Bethlehem and Nablus, as well as at the border with Gaza.

Protesters injured in clashes at several flashpoints received medical treatment, according to Palestinian sources. Among those reportedly injured at Qalandia was Palestinian lawmaker Moustafa Barghouti.

Euro countries strengthen financial ‘firewall’

Copenhagen, Denmark – The 17 countries that use the euro have boosted their emergency funding for heavily indebted countries to $1.1 trillion – an amount that falls short of what the currency union’s international partners had said is needed to calm financial markets.

The International Monetary Fund and others have been calling for a financial “firewall” of more than $1.3 trillion – just in case the much larger economies of Spain and Italy need assistance. On Friday, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde congratulated European leaders on their agreement, but didn’t say whether it went far enough to guarantee additional help from the IMF.

Many economists fear that further trouble in Europe could smother a burgeoning economic recovery in other parts of the world.

Food aid plans halted over N. Korea launch

Washington – The Obama administration says it has dropped plans to provide 240,000 metric tons of food aid for North Korea over Pyongyang’s plans to launch what the U.S. says is a missile – but which North Korea claims is a rocket designed to boost a satellite into space.

The food aid was supposed to be part of a deal announced Feb. 29 and dubbed the Leap Year deal. It would see North Korea suspend some of its nuclear fuel enrichment activities, admit international nuclear inspectors and put a moratorium on long-range missile launches.

But the two countries never signed a joint declaration, instead issuing statements that each has interpreted its own way.

The deal has swiftly unraveled over North Korea’s plans for a multiple-stage rocket launch in mid-April.


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