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THE MIDEAST IN BRIEF

Cabinet official calls Hezbollah `a cancer'

OTTAWA -- Canada yesterday brushed off criticism about its pro-Israel stance, saying the militant group Hezbollah was ``a cancer" that could well break the terms of any future cease-fire. ``There can be no doubt about that -- Hezbollah are a cancer on Lebanon that are destroying stability and democracy," Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said. He also criticized Israel, saying its decision to bomb the Beirut airport had complicated the evacuation of thousands of Canadians. Ottawa says there is no point in an immediate cease-fire, which would leave Israel vulnerable. (Reuters)

Lebanon

Militants dispute report on casualties
BEIRUT -- Hezbollah yesterday denied claims by the Israeli justice minister that the Israeli Army had killed 300 of its fighters in Lebanon. Hezbollah said the statement, which reported that 300 of an estimated 2,000 fighters were killed, was aimed at raising the morale of Israeli troops fighting the guerrilla group in southern Lebanon. A spokesman for the guerrilla group said 43 fighters have died. (Reuters)

Tunisia

Justice demanded in Qana airstrike
TUNIS -- Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Tunis yesterday demanding that those who carried out the killings in Qana be put on trial. Many of the estimated 7,000 protesters held up photographs of the victims of Israel's weekend airstrike on Qana, which killed at least 54 civilians, including 37 children. ``Qana is a shame on humanity," they cried while others in the crowd described Israeli leaders as the ``new Nazis" and called on Arab states to intervene to end the ``Zionist crimes." (Reuters)

Belgium

EU panel divided on cease-fire terms
BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers called yesterday for an immediate end to hostilities in Lebanon but dropped a demand for an instant cease-fire at the insistence of the United States' closest allies in the bloc. The statement adopted at a crisis meeting of the 25-nation EU said: ``The Council calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities to be followed by a sustainable cease-fire." An initial draft proposed by the EU's Finnish presidency had said flatly: ``The Council called for an immediate cease-fire." But Britain, backed by Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Denmark, insisted on the alternative wording, and unanimity is required for EU foreign policy statements. (Reuters)

Gaza Strip

Hospital shootout leaves 5 wounded
GAZA CITY -- Gunmen clashed with members of the Hamas-led police force in a Gaza City hospital yesterday, wounding at least five people, medics and witnesses said. The Palestinian Interior Ministry said the gunmen opened fire after entering the hospital and refusing to abide by regulations to leave their weapons at the door. In the last two days, two members of the rival Fatah movement have been shot and wounded by unknown assailants in Gaza. Earlier yesterday, a gunman shot and wounded a Hamas member in the town of Khan Younis, medics and witnesses said. (Reuters)

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