Following through on a warning to Palestinians not to use homemade rockets against Israeli targets, the military sent jets and helicopters to attack Yasser Arafat's security headquarters in Gaza City. Six missiles slammed into the compound, setting some of its buildings ablaze (above), injuring 37 people, and cutting electricity. The raid came after Hamas claimed responsibility for firing a Qassam-2 rocket at an Israeli farm Sunday. The Qassam-2 has a range of eight miles, enough to reach Israeli cities and towns from either the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
A lower-than-expected turnout of perhaps 100,000 people gathered in the central square of Iran's capital to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The occasion, meant as a show of defiance against the US, featured a speech by President Mohamad Khatami, widely seen as a moderate reformer, who lashed out at the Bush administration's "ridiculous pressure" tactics and "wrong policies." He alluded to "discontent" among Iranians over the conservative leadership of the hard-line clerics, but insisted that those present "are confirming their attachment to the revolution." (Story, page 1.)
The western bureau of the only independent daily newspaper in Zimbabwe was firebombed in the latest outbreak of preelection violence. No one was hurt, and damage to the Bulawayo offices of The Daily News was relatively minor. The publication has been accused by President Robert Mugabe's government of supporting his political opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Also targeted was a print shop that had produced MDC campaign materials. The incidents followed police cancellation of an MDC campaign rally Sunday.
"Both parties agreed that they wanted peace," a government mediator said as unprecedented truce negotiations opened between Christian and Muslim delegates in Indonesia's volatile Molucca islands. Sectarian fighting in the region has killed roughly 10,000 people and caused hundreds of thousands of others to flee their homes since January 1999, with Army troops often siding with the Muslims. It was not clear whether representatives of the Laskar Jihad militia were participating in the talks. About 3,000 Laskar Jihad members have infiltrated the Moluccas from Java, vowing to eradicate Christianity.
To the surprise of virtually no one in France, President Jacques Chirac announced his candidacy for reelection. The incumbent, a conservative, will face a field of challengers that is expected to include his bitter rival, Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, in the first round of voting April 21. The top two finishers meet again in a second round, May 5. Parliamentary elections are to follow in June. Socialist Party sources said Jospin likely will declare his candidacy by March 1.
The peso appeared likely to drop 12 percentin value in Argentina as trading resumed for the first time since being suspended Feb. 1. Set free to float against the US dollar, the peso fell to a buy/sell ratio of 2.20/2.30, compared to 2.00/2.05 before the freeze.