Israeli Police Block

Major Protest in Gaza

JERUSALEM -- Close to 20,000 Israeli police officers headed off a large Jewish demonstration on Monday against Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, angering march organizers who had cast the event as a final attempt to prevent the evacuation.

The three-day march was planned to conclude inside Gaza's largest settlement area, which the Israeli government is scheduled to begin evacuating Aug. 15. Organizers predicted that at least 30,000 people would gather Monday in the western Negev region to begin the march.

Fearing a violent confrontation between pro-settler activists and soldiers, Israeli police refused to issue a permit for the rally. The demonstration's organizers decided to proceed anyway. But police prevented several hundred buses carrying participants from reaching the staging area.

Meanwhile, inside Gaza, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a teenage Palestinian boy near the settlement of Kfar Darom. Israeli military officials said soldiers fired at two taxis attempting to pass through a military checkpoint. One of the shots, the officials said, might have struck the boy.

-- Scott Wilson

EUROPE

* BELGRADE -- Eight secret policemen loyal to former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic were convicted of the murder of communist-era president Ivan Stambolic, who was seen by Milosevic as a threat to his hold on power.

The killing took place in August 2000, shortly before Milosevic lost elections to reformers and was ousted in a popular uprising in October.

* LONDON -- A British jury convicted a former Afghan warlord of torture and hostage-taking after what prosecutors called the first trial in Britain of a foreigner for crimes committed in his homeland.

For much of the 1990s, Faryadi Sarwar Zardad and his men ran a fiefdom of fear on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul, beating, shooting and imprisoning civilians at random. He came to London in 1998 on a fake passport and was managing a pizza restaurant when he was arrested.

The Middle east

* BEIRUT -- Lawmakers approved a motion to pardon a notorious anti-Syrian militia leader serving a life term for killing a prime minister and to free nearly three dozen Muslim radicals, some with alleged links to al Qaeda.

Samir Geagea, the former leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, has been linked to some of Lebanon's most notorious civil war-era killings, including the 1987 bombing of a military helicopter that killed pro-Syrian Prime Minister Rashid Karami and the slaying of prominent Christian politician Danny Chamoun.

The Americas

* RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazil's president acknowledged irregular campaign funding by his Workers' Party but blamed the party's fallen leaders in what some saw as an attempt to divert attention from a bribery scandal rocking his government.

In a television interview, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that his party had been wrong to mar its long-standing reputation for honesty.

-- From News Services

South Africa marked former president Nelson Mandela's birthday with a nationwide celebration. A torch was lit in his old prison cell for a relay across the country to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.