Bangladesh\’s former premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed won the country\’s first election since 2001 in a landslide Tuesday, crushing her bitter rival to retake power in the impoverished south Asian nation.
The election commission said Sheikh Hasina\’s Awami League party had won 229 of the 295 seats in parliament counted so far, giving her an overwhelming win in Monday\’s vote with just a handful of results still to be tallied.
“She has a clear majority to govern without any other party,” commission spokesman S.M. Asaduzzaman told AFP.
Election ends army rule
Her rival Khaleda Zia\’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which won the last election in 2001 by a huge margin, garnered only 27 seats in the ballot,which ended two years of rule by an army-backed caretaker government.
“There have been a lot of irregularities,” BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed said.
“Our supporters have been kept from voting, and our polling agents and officials have been barred from performing their duties.”
Sheikh Hasina and Zia, known as the battling begums, ruled alternately from 1991 until the interim government was installed, and their bitter personal rivalry has been blamed for paralysing political life in the country.
The caretaker regime made efforts to shake up the system, and went so far as to jail both women for corruption, but agreed to release them to contest the election.
Although polling was peaceful, there are concerns that the restoration of democracy will see the country slip back into the negative, confrontational politics of the past.
Newspapers hailed Sheikh Hasina\’s performance, with the English-language Daily Star describing the win as “stunning” proof that the country was “hungry for change.”
Dhaka University political science professor Ataur Rahman said it represented a “huge backlash” against the last BNP government, which had a reputation for rampant corruption.
Millions of fake voters discovered
A UN-funded digital electoral roll, which eliminated 12.7 million fake names, appeared to have put a lid on the widespread vote rigging seen in previous polls, observers said.
“What we have heard is that voting has largely been peaceful, turnout has been high and procedures were followed adequately,” the European Union\’s chief election observer, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, said.
The Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, the BNP\’s key partner in its four-party alliance, was way down on the 17 seats it won in 2001, winning just two this time, the official results showed.
The Daily Star said the loss was “a wholesale rejection of the party” by voters in the conservative Muslim-majority nation.
The election attracted a 70 percent turnout and saw none of the deadly violence that forced the last scheduled vote to be cancelled.
The army-backed government took power in January 2007 following months of political unrest in which at least 35 people were killed.
Some 50,000 armed troops had been on alert nationwide during Monday\’s voting, while 600,000 police officers were deployed to crack down on fraud or disruptions at the 35,000 polling booths.
Thousands of foreign observers
The EU — among the 200,000 observers including 2,500 from abroad watching voting — said the coming days would be crucial in restoring democratic rule to the desperately poor nation of 144 million people.
The Awami League, formed in 1948, traditionally had socialist economic policies but Hasina, 61, has moved it towards backing private sector expansion.
Sheikh Hasina\’s father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, led Bangladesh in its liberation struggle against Pakistan in 1971 and was assassinated in a 1975 military coup.
Australia have lost a Test series at home for the first time since 1992-93, following South Africa\’s nine-wicket victory in the second Test at the MCG on Tuesday.
Captain Graeme Smith typically led the way with 75 as South Africa claimed their first Test-series win on Australian soil.
The tourists can snatch top ranking from Ricky Ponting\’s side if they sweep the series 3-0 with victory in the Sydney Test which starts on Saturday.
Set 183 to win and resuming at 0-30, the Proteas reached their target one wicket down, 55 minutes after lunch on day five to claim a 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Smith hit 10 fours from 94 balls and was out lbw to off-spinner Nathan Hauritz shortly before lunch after an opening stand of 121 with Neil McKenzie.
McKenzie was 59 not out with Hashim Amla made an unbeaten 30.
Paceman Brett Lee, who has been ordered to rest for six weeks after this match because of a stress reaction in his left foot, bravely opened the bowling for Australia and took 0-49 from 10 overs.
Lee left the field half an hour before the game ended.
Australia\’s woes deepened on Tuesday with the news that 12th man Shane Watson will be unable to bowl for six months because of stress fractures in his back.
The Queenslander\’s latest injury complicates Australia\’s selection for Saturday\’s third Test in Sydney. Watson had been touted as a replacement allrounder for the struggling Andrew Symonds, who is also battling knee soreness.
Ponting, whose captaincy tactics have been questioned during the second Test, has produced a fine double of 101 and 99 with the bat for Australia.
South Africa paceman Dale Steyn took match figures of 10-154.
Steyn, who has claimed 74 wickets this year, took four of the first five wickets to fall on Monday.
They included out-of-form pair Matthew Hayden (23) and Symonds (0).
The 102-Test career of Hayden, 37, appears almost over.
South African veteran Jacques Kallis said he was thrilled to cap his fourth tour of Australia with a series victory.
“At the MCG, what better place to want to do it,” he told the Nine Network.
“I\’ve had some individual highlights here, but lost Test matches and drawn Test matches, so this one takes the cake.
“Having won a Test match here beats all those (previous) feelings … and is an unbelievable effort.”
An Israeli naval vessel has collided with a small boat carrying a group of activists and medical supplies that was trying to break the Gaza blockade.
Activists aboard the damaged boat were forced to divert to the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre on December 30.
Passengers on board the 20-metre boat, called Dignity, claimed the Israeli patrol boat rammed their vessel.
But Israeli officials said the two boats collided as the Israeli navy was trying to contact its captain.
Reuters reports that an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed there had been “physical contact” between its vessel and the cabin cruiser Dignity, which sailed from Cyprus late on Monday.
Some activists from the “Free Gaza” movement told Reuters their boat, carrying 3.5 metric tons of medical aid and 16 people, was rammed and shot at in international waters 70 to 80 miles off Gaza by an Israeli naval vessel. There were no casualties.
Yigal Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the aid boat had failed to respond to radio contact. He denied there had been any shooting.
Israel declared the Gaza coastal territory a closed military zone after it launched air attacks on Hamas targets on Saturday. More than 380 Palestinians have been killed in the attacks.
The Dignity docked in Tyre escorted by a Lebanese navy vessel and several fishing boats waving Lebanese and Shi\’ite party flags. Scores of Palestinians and Lebanese greeted the boat, which had a huge hole in its superstructure, at the port.
One Free Gaza member, David Halpin, said he recognised two Israeli patrol boats when they flashed their searchlights at about 5 am (10pm AEST). Israeli officers on board asked the captain to halt the boat\’s course to Gaza, but he refused, Halpin said.
“There was the most almighty three bangs with the sound of splintering wood. The bow of the boat was rammed and it went down for a second or two,” Halpin told Reuters.
“I thought I was going to die. I\’m 68. None of us had life jackets on. We are appalled at this barbaric act,” he said.
Cyprus state radio said the Cypriot government would seek explanations from Israel over the incident. The vessel was carrying medical aid donated by Cyprus and there were at least three Cypriots on board, including a parliamentarian.
Free Gaza is a US-based organisation which has sent regular shuttles of aid to Gaza from Cyprus since August.
Some activists said they were undeterred by the incident.
“We are determined to go to Gaza and we are looking for another boat,” said activist Derek Graham. “The Cypriot government gave us this medicine to deliver, and we will deliver it.”
Bangladesh\’s ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has rejected the results of the country\’s general election, which gave her arch rival a landslide victory.
Fellow former premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed\’s Awami League won a two-thirds majority in the poll held on Monday – the first in Bangladesh since 2001.
But Zia, of the opposition Bangladeshi Nationalist Party, insisted the results were not valid, alleging widespread vote-rigging had taken place.
“I thank the chief election commissioner for implementing a stage-managed election,” she told private television station NTV.
“This election is not acceptable to the BNP. It also won\’t be acceptable to the people.”
Her reaction has threatened to throw Bangladesh into further political turmoil, after two years of emergency rule by a military-backed caretaker regime.
Record voter turnout
The BNP won just 29 of the possible 300 seats in Monday\’s vote, while left-leaning rival the
Awami League picked up 230 seats.
The election attracted a record voter turnout of 85 per cent, with that figure reaching 90 per cent in rural areas, the Election Commission said.
Some 200,000 observers were present in Bangladesh on election day, including 2,500 from the EU, the Commonwealth and other foreign independent groups.
Both the Election Commission and international observers have said the poll was largely free and fair.
Sheikh Hasina is expected to be sworn in as prime minister before January 7.
Sheikh Hasina and Zia, known as the battling begums, have ruled Bangladesh alternately from 1991 until the interim government was installed two years ago.
Their bitter personal rivalry has been blamed for paralysing political life in the country.
Wounded Palestinians have began crossing through the Rafah border post into Egypt as medical aid for the devastated Gaza Strip went in the other direction.
Last night, 22 patients, some in critical condition, had crossed at the only Gaza exit point which does not lead to Israel, a security official at the crossing told news agency AFP.
Some 30 wounded Palestinians had been due to enter Egypt during the day.
Egyptian lorries loaded with medicines moved in early afternoon to the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal to allow the transfer of their cargoes to Palestinian vehicles.
Trucks carrying aid sent by Qatar and Libya were also able to transfer their loads.
The Egyptian government issued a statement saying it was “ready to allow the passage of any food or medical aid for the Gaza Strip coming from abroad.”
The Palestinian ambassador in Cairo, Nabil Amr, said Saudi Arabia had sent two fully equipped hospital aircraft to tend the wounded.
The oil-rich kingdom also sent aid to Egypt which would “immediately” be passed on to Gaza, an Egyptian official told MENA news agency.
Cairo opened the Rafah border point on Saturday on the first day of the massive Israeli air operation against the Hamas movement, which controls the impoverished Palestinian territory.
Hamas officials at the crossing said they were drawing up lists of wounded whose condition allowed them to be safely transported.
Fathi Abu Maghli, Palestinian Authority health minister, told reporters on the Egypt side of the frontier that critically wounded patients had to be stabilised before they could be sent to Egypt.
“The main difficulty was stabilising the patients,” said Abu Maghli, who belongs to the West Bank government of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Trouble at the border
Egypt closed the crossing on Sunday evening after about 200 Palestinians tried to climb over the border wall into Egypt — with dozens succeeding – and after an Egyptian border guard was shot dead.
Another guard was wounded by shots fired from the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian police detained 46 Gazans who had crossed on Sunday and were holding them in Rafah, a security official said.
A Hamas official told AFP the ambulances waited near the crossing for two hours on Sunday evening before Egyptian guards turned them back because of the gunfight.
Israeli air strikes continued relentlessly on Monday, with Gaza medics putting the number of Palestinians killed so far in the bombardments at well over 340 with more than 1,550 wounded.
Demonstrations have been held across the Middle East against the Israeli air raids, with many protesters also railing against Egypt for not opening its Gaza border to deliveries of basic supplies and civilians wishing to flee the air raids.
Thousands demonstrated in central Cairo on Monday in protest at the Israeli bombardment.
“Egypt must move to rescue the besieged Palestinians from Israeli terrorism, and the (Arab regimes) complicity,” Mahdi Akef, head of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood movement, said at the rally.
In Beirut on Sunday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah urged Egyptians in their “millions” to take to the streets to force a change in government policy.
A man has taken hostages and barricaded himself inside a house on the NSW mid-north coast.
Officers have set up a two-kilometre exclusion zone around the property in Stuarts Point, near Kempsey, after a police chase earlier today.
The man had driven into the property during the chase, at 5.30am (AEDT), barricading himself inside the home, the Seven Network reported.
Neighbours say there are two adults and two children inside the house. They also reported hearing gunshots just after the entered the property, Seven said.
Police have not confirmed whether the gunman is in the house or in neighbouring bushland, saying they won\’t comment on the siege for fear of jeopardising the operation.
About 40 officers have surrounded the house, ABC Radio reports.
Richard Livesey, a neighbour living just 100 metres from the property, said residents had been asked to stay inside their homes.
“Police walked passed early on this morning, at about 6.30am, and just said stay in the house and if anyone comes near it to run out the back,” he told Network Ten.
Mr Livesey said he didn\’t fear for his safety, but after a flurry of activity earlier in the day, followed by a lull, he wanted to know what was going on.
“The police helicopter is flying around now and there are a few police going through the front paddock, some heavily armed, some in normal police uniform with flak jackets,” he said.
“I haven\’t seen anyone for a little while … I\’m not quite sure why they haven\’t come and got me.”
Mr Livesey said he did not know the family caught up in the siege.
Baghdad has signed military accords with Britain and Australia that give their troops a legal basis to stay in Iraq after the expiry of the UN mandate on December 31, the Iraqi government said.
“With the authority of the government of Iraq given to the defence minister, an agreement was signed with Britain today which will be implemented from the start of the new year until June 30,” defence ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari told news agency AFP.
“A little while ago an agreement was also signed regarding the withdrawal of the Australian forces in Iraq. It was signed between the Iraqi defence minister and the Australian ambassador,” Askari said.
The long-awaited agreements come just a day ahead of the expiry of the UN mandate, effectively legalising the presence of non-US foreign troops in the country at the eleventh hour and moving Iraq closer to full sovereignty.
Under the agreement, Britain, which has about 4,100 troops based at Basra airport in southern Iraq, will play only a supportive role in their area.
“British troops will only support, consolidate and develop the Iraqi security forces without having any combat mission. July 31 will be the last day for the withdrawal of the British forces from Iraq,” Askari said.
Iraqi defence minister Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassem Obeidi signed the separate accords with British ambassador Christopher Prentice and Australian ambassador Robert Tyson.
After British troops leave next year, relations between London and Baghdad will in theory revert to those between any other country.
British troop numbers in the Iraq campaign peaked at 46,000 in March and April 2003 for the invasion.
The end of the UN mandate put in place soon after the March 2003 US-led invasion means Iraq will take greater control of its own security although foreign forces will remain in the country under separate bilateral agreements.
“The main difference is that UNAMI will increasingly and gradually expect Iraqi security forces to provide security, as in any other sovereign country,” Staffan de Mistura, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) envoy, told AFP earlier this week.
However, deals will also need to be signed by Iraq with Estonia, Romania,El Salvador and NATO, each of whom have small numbers of troops stationed in Iraq.
The United States, which has 146,000 soldiers in Iraq, in November signed an agreement with Baghdad which allows its combat forces to remain in the country until the end of 2011.
Under the terms the agreement signed with Washington, the United States will hand over on January 1 Saddam Hussein\’s former official residence to the Iraqi government after occupying the majestic sandstone palace since 2003.
Hamas has vowed to fight “until the last breath” if Israel makes good on threats to send ground troops into Gaza after rejecting calls for a truce and pressing on with its air assault.
“We in Hamas are ready for all scenarios and we will fight until the last breath,” senior official Mushir al-Masri told AFP as warplanes pounded Gaza for a fifth day and the Palestinian enclave\’s Islamist rulers hit back with rockets.
“Israel will embark on a veritable adventure if it decides to invade Gaza.
We have prepared surprises for them,” he vowed.
Israel will be defeated: Hamas
In a defiant televised speech, the head of the Hamas government, Ismail Haniya, vowed Israel would be defeated.
“Our people will defeat those tanks,” he said as Israeli media speculated a ground offensive could be just days away.
Despite international appeals for the bloodshed to end, Israel\’s security cabinet rejected proposals for a ceasefire.
Israel to press on with bombardments
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet conditions were not yet ripe to halt the bombardment, launched in response to persistent rocket fire from the territory that Hamas has run for a year and a half.
“We did not launch the Gaza operation only to end it with the same rocket firing that we had at its start,” a senior official quoted Olmert as saying.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak underlined that Israel was “determined to enlarge and deepen” the scope of its military operation “until we have achieved the objectives we have set for ourselves.”
As diplomats scrambled to find a way to stop one of Israel\’s deadliest ever offensives against the Gaza Strip — one that has so far killed at least 394 Palestinians — the UN Security Council was to meet late Wednesday for closed-dooor consultations on Gaza.
International pressure intensifies
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank on Monday, his office announced. In a New Year\’s message, Sarkozy said he will visit the Middle East in a bid to “find a roadmap towards peace.”
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said: “The effort to bring about a ceasefire continues.”
There was no let-up in the violence on Wednesday, with Israel conducting nearly 60 air strikes and Hamas firing more than 60 rockets.
Israel said that among the targets hit was a mosque in Gaza City used by Hamas to store and fire rockets.
Abbas threatens to abandon peace talks
Hamas indicated it would consider any ceasefire proposal that includes an end to the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza since the Islamists seized power.
“If the aggression is halted unconditionally and the blockade is lifted and the passages are opened, we then can discuss all issues in a positive manner,” the Hamas prime minister said.
The movement\’s exiled head, Khaled Meshaal, made similar comments in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to the Russian ministry.
The White House said it was up to Hamas to make the first move.
“I think President (George W) Bush thinks that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets, and that is what will be the first steps in a ceasefire,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas threatened to abandon peace talks with Israel so as not to support its deadly “aggression” against Gaza.
Israel has warned that its “all-out war” on Hamas could last for weeks. It has massed tanks on the Gaza border, authorised the call-up of 9,000 reservists and warned of a ground invasion.
Palestinian death toll reaches almost 400
Since it started on Saturday, the Israeli offensive has killed at least 394 people, including 42 children, and wounded more than 1,900, according to Gaza medics.
At least 25 percent of those killed have been civilians, the United Nations said.
The bombardment has reduced much of Hamas\’s administrative infrastructure to rubble but has failed to stop rocket fire into Israel.
Since Saturday, militants have fired more than 250 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, killing three civilians and one soldier and wounding several dozen people.
Five of the rockets fired since Tuesday evening slammed into the desert town of Beersheba some 40 kilometres from the Gaza border – the deepest yet that its projectiles have reached inside Israel.
The bombardment has raised concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a tiny, aid-dependent territory of 1.5 million people that has been crippled by Israel\’s blockade.
The Red Cross said a breadline queue in driving rain at the only bakery in a refugee camp at Gaza\’s Jabalya stretched back 300 metres on Wednesday.
Bush called Olmert, who assured him Israel was taking “appropriate steps” to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, the White House said.
Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, some 6,500 tonnes of aid have been transferred at the request of international organisations, the Palestinian Authority and various governments, the defence ministry said.
Several Arab countries cancelled New Year\’s Eve festivities in solidarity with Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, celebrations, low-key at the best of times, were particularly subdued.
Britain\’s Olympic heroes have added a fresh haul of gongs to their sporting medals with awards in the New Year\’s Honours List.
Sportsmen and women are among the big names and unsung heroes recognised for their efforts, alongside figures from the entertainment and arts world.
Cyclist Chris Hoy, who notched up three golds in Beijing, heads the list, being knighted for his impressive track performance.
And in an unprecedented family double, Hoy\’s mother Carol was also honoured, being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to nursing.
It is the first time a mother and son have been named in the same list.
“It is, genuinely, just an amazing honour,” the 32-year-old sportsman said. “It\’s bizarre, it almost seems like it\’s not real.
Youngest ever recipient
“I was as delighted with my mum getting her MBE as I was with my knighthood,” said Hoy, who was crowned the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2008 earlier this month.
Britain\’s Olympic team won 47 medals in Beijing, in the best showing for Britain in a century. They came fourth in the overall medals table.
Swimming double gold medallist Rebecca Adlington, 19, was awarded an OBE, while cycling double gold winner Bradley Wiggins became a CBE.
Christine Ohuruogu, Britain\’s sole track and field gold medallist,was made an MBE, and sailor Ben Ainslie, who has won gold at three successive Olympics, was awarded a CBE.
And 14-year-old Paralympic swimmer Eleanor Simmonds became the youngest person ever named on the Honours List, handed an MBE for her double gold-winning performance in the pool.
No-one under the age of 18 has received an honour before.
Away from Beijing, Lewis Hamilton, the world\’s youngest ever Formula One champion, was made an MBE.
Fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series, was knighted.
“There are times when phrases such as \’totally astonished\’ just don\’t do the job,” said Pratchett, 60, a campaigner for more research into Alzheimer\’s disease since he was dignosed with the illness last year.
“I am of course delighted and honoured and – needless to say – flabbergasted.”
He will be joined at Buckingham Palace by Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, a Grammy-award winning musician and singer, who was made a CBE.
Others honoured included actor Michael Sheen, who portrayed Prime Minister Tony Blair in the film The Queen and journalist David Frost in both the stage and screen versions of Frost/Nixon. He will receive an OBE.
“It\’ll be nice to meet the real Queen at last,” the 39-year-old told the BBC, adding that he was “thrilled and slightly mystified” by the award.
\’Ordinary\’ Britons honoured
Historian David Cannadine, known for his 1996 book The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, was handed a knighthood.
Nigel Lightfoot, the chief adviser to Britain\’s Health Protection Agency, was honoured with a CBE for coordinating protection of the public after former Russia security agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London in 2006.
Lightfoot\’s team found traces of polonium-210 – a radioactive isotope – at more than 25 sites in London and estimated that as many as 1,500 people may have been put in danger.
Fashion designer Anya Hindmarch, best known for her handbags and eco-friendly shopping bags, was made an MBE.
Six heroes of the 2005 London bombings were among many \’ordinary\’ citizens named on the list – alongside foster parents, campaigners and charity workers.
Honours range in descending order from knighthoods, to the CBE, OBE and MBE.
Though the honours are bestowed by the Queen, the recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public.
As Israel, under increasing diplomatic pressure, mulled a proposed 48-hour truce and the death toll from its onslaught rose to at least 373 Palestinians, the protesters made their voices heard again.
In France, more than 7,000 protesters marched in a dozen cities across the country to denounce the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which continued for the fourth day running Tuesday.
In Paris, around 3,500 people according to police — 5,000 according to the organisers — marched towards the French foreign ministry on the Quai D\’Orsay by the River Seine, shouting slogans and carrying banners denouncing Israel.
Police said another 700 marched in the western city of Nantes, while demonstrations in at least a dozen cities and towns across the country each attracted hundreds of protesters.
In London, between 200 and 300 demonstrators protested peacefully outside the Israeli embassy, after the two previous days\’ rallies had descended into violence.
This demonstration was smaller than on Sunday and Monday, when scuffles erupted between police and protestors against Israel\’s air raids, leading to a total of 17 arrests over the two days.
Iranian demonstrators stormed the British diplomatic compound in Tehran Tuesday evening to protest London\’s stance towards the Israeli onslaught, state news agency IRNA reported.
“A large group of people and students entered the Gholhak gardens, which are occupied by the British embassy to protest at Britain\’s policies in supporting the Zionist regime and put up the Palestinian flag there,” IRNA said.
A media officer at the British embassy in Tehran confirmed the report.
In Washington, around 200 people protested outside the US State Department chanting slogans like “Stop the Killing, Stop the War, Stop the Genocide of Palestinians” and with some carrying banners saying “Stop US Aid to Israel”.
In Tunis, hundreds of lawyers and trade unionists joined opposition activists to defy a police ban and protest the bombing of Gaza, several sources reported.
As some protesters shouted slogans denouncing the lack of response from Arab countries in general and Egypt in particular, police headed off the demonstration as it headed towards the courthouse, said witnesses.
Tunisia\’s government has already condemned the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Saudi Arabia\’s interior ministry denied a report by Shiite news website Rasid广西桑拿, that hundreds had demonstrated Monday afternoon in heavily Shiite Al Qatif, just west of Dammam, leading to several arrests.
Shiite news website Rasid广西桑拿, reported that police had fired rubber bullets to break up the demonstrations Monday afternoon, which were attended by hundreds of people. But an interior ministry spokesman told AFP there had been no such demonstration.
Demonstrators in the Yemeni port city of Aden briefly broke into the Egyptian consulate to protest Cairo\’s response to the Israeli offensive, a security official said.
The protesters, mostly students from the University of Aden, “vandalised furniture before they were removed peacefully from the building,” the official said, asking not to be identified.
Egypt has come in for strong criticism from Islamists and their sympathisers around the Muslim world for not fully opening its border with Gaza in the face of Israel\’s devastating air blitz.
In Algeria, about 100 people staged a protest in the capital Algiers after a call from politicians and editors of writers\’ and artists\’ magazines. They observed a minute\’s silence in memory of the dead.
In Panama City, around 200 people protested outside the Israeli embassy to condemn Israel\’s attacks on the Gaza Strip.
In the Bulgarian capital Sofia, about 200 protesters called on the Bulgarian government to support the peace efforts. Demonstrators carried pro-Palestinian banners and others denouncing Israel.
Earlier Tuesday, about 200 people carrying flowers and candles offered a one-minute prayer in front of the Israeli embassy, with a Buddhist monk ringing a bell for the souls of the victims.
“This is nothing but a bloodbath,” organiser Hiroshi Taniyama told demonstrators, who included Arabs living in Japan.