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Daily Archives: June 9, 2009

Four militants killed in Gaza border

At least four Palestinian militants were killed on yesterday in a gunbattle with Israeli soldiers along the border of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the deadliest such incident in months, medics in Gaza city said.
The incident, which reportedly involved some militants riding on horseback, came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was mulling in the face of increasing US pressure whether to ease a crippling blockade imposed on the territory, according to senior officials.
The bodies of the four militants killed yesterday had explosives belts around them and two of the bodies were torn to shreds by explosions, the medics said after retrieving the remains.
At least another 12 Palestinians were wounded in the fighting near the Nahal Oz crossing with Israel east of Gaza City, they said. The crossing, through which all fuel crosses into the territory, was shut following the clash.
An Israeli army spokesman said ground troops backed by a helicopter gunship engaged in firefight with militants who had opened fire near the heavily-fortified frontier between Israel and the Palestinian enclave.
Up to 10 militants opened fire and detonated explosives against an Israeli force in the attack, according to Israeli military sources. Palestinian witnesses said that some of the gunmen had been riding horses.
There was no immediate claim for the attack from any armed Palestinian group in Gaza.
No Israeli troops were reported to have been killed.
Yesterday's incident was one of the deadliest since the end of the war that Israel unleashed on the territory in response to rocket fire on December 27 and that ended with mutual ceasefires by Hamas and Israel on January 18.

Centre-left painful defeat in EU vote

Conservatives decisively beat Socialists in EU Parliament elections marred by a record low turnout, results showed yesterday, after the centre-left failed to capitalise on concern over the recession.
The vote marks a painful defeat for Europe's left, whose poor showing opened the door for far-right anti-immigrant and eurosceptic parties to seize the moment and gain support for their hardline message.
Left-wing parties in power in Britain, Spain and Portugal were punished by their electorates while their allies in opposition in Germany and France suffered brutal losses.
The centre-right European People's Party secured 267 seats, making it the biggest group in the 736-member assembly, ahead of the Socialists on 159 seats, down from 215, according to official estimates.
About 20 members of Italy's left-leaning Democrats were expected to join the Socialist group in parliament.
The EPP's came despite the desertion of the British and Czech conservatives.
The Liberal Democrats came in third with 81 seats followed by the Greens with 51 seats, up from 43, in the parliament – the European Union's only directly elected institution.
Some 388 million people were eligible to vote in the world's biggest transnational elections which were spread over four days.
Turnout slumped to 43.55 percent, down from 45.4 percent in 2004. The extreme right wing British National Party won its first two European Parliament seats, while Dutch anti-Islamic lawmaker Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom came second on Thursday with 17 percent of the vote.
"The turnout compared to 2004 shows that this is not the time for complacency," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said, urging national governments to play a more visible EU role.
However, the centre-right victory boosts Barroso's chances of securing a second term at the helm of the EU executive arm when his mandate expires in November.
"It's a sad evening for social democracy in Europe. We are particularly disappointed, [it is] a bitter evening for us," said the head of the Socialist bloc, German lawmaker Martin Schulz.
Embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown faced a new fight for his leadership yesterday after the polls brought humiliating results for his Labour Party and a surge in far-right support.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives came out on top, trouncing her centre-left rivals in what was seen as a dry run for September's general election.
They were well ahead of the second-placed Social Democrats, who hit a new record low of 20.8 percent.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party romped home with close to 28 percent of the vote, leaving the opposition Socialists trailing with about 16 percent, about the same as the Greens.
Scandal-plagued Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party led with 34.7 percent of the vote with more than three-quarters of polling stations counted – well below his target of 40 percent.
Spain's opposition conservatives beat the ruling Socialists, garnering 42.25 percent compared to 38.50 percent Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's party, results showed with nearly all votes counted.
The Socialist party of Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates also suffered a surprise defeat by the right-wing Social Democrats.
In Austria, the list of eurosceptic campaigner Hans-Peter Martin made major gains, while the ruling Social Democrats had their worst election debacle ever, official results showed.
Finland's nationalist and eurosceptic True Finns party also saw a strong rise in support, with about 10 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.
In Ireland, which voted on Friday, the centrist Fianna Fail party led by Prime Minister Brian Cowen suffered a voter backlash, losing out to the opposition Fine Gael.
In contrast to its centre-right European peers, Greece's ruling conservatives trailed the opposition Socialists for their first defeat in five years amid a record-low turnout.
In Bulgaria, accusations of vote-buying including three arrests marred the elections.