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U.S., Britain criticize Israeli attack on Palestinian protest

U.S., Britain criticize Israeli attack on Palestinian protest

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RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces fired a missile and a barrage of tank shells to hold back a crowd of Palestinians protesting military operations in Gaza on Wednesday, killing at least 10, including children and teens.

Overwhelmed doctors treated some of the dozens of wounded on blood-drenched hospital floors.

White smoke rose into the air as Palestinians carried the wounded — including children with bloodied faces — from the scene. Some were evacuated to the hospital in donkey carts, witnesses said.

“I could see the tank; first it fired a tank shell, it landed next to an electricity pole,” said Hisham Ashour, 45, who was near the front of the crowd. “We immediately started picking up the wounded who had collapsed to the ground. Many of them were kids.”

The strike, captured in television footage, provoked unusual criticism from the Bush administration, anger throughout the Arab world and condemnation from European leaders. British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Israel’s 2-day-old military offensive in the Rafah refugee camp “unacceptable and wrong.”

Sikh to lead India after Gandhi refuses position

NEW DELHI — Manmohan Singh, whose humble origins inspired him to start the reforms that opened up India’s economy, was named prime minister Wednesday, ending weeks of turmoil that culminated with Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to take the post.

Singh, the first Sikh prime minister in the mainly Hindu nation’s post-colonial history, said he was accepting the position even though voters signaled they wanted Gandhi.

“The mandate of the people of India was to make Sonia Gandhi the prime minister,” the soft-spoken Singh said as photographers screamed for him to display his letter of appointment from President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam outside the presidential palace.

Kalam appointed the 71-year-old Singh to form a government with a minority of the 545 seats in Parliament’s lower house, after receiving letters of support from communists and socialists.

Singh, an Oxford-educated economist, emphasized the importance of a healthy capital market, creation of jobs and social development, as he tried to calm investors who have been jittery since the likely makeup of the government became clear. The markets soared at the news that Singh was to take the helm.

First stem-cell bank for research opens in Britain

POTTERS BAR, England — Britain opened the world’s first national stem-cell bank Wednesday, hoping to establish a lead in promising but controversial medical research.

Citing the “tremendous potential” of stem cells, Health Minister Lord Norman Warner said, “We expect to bring breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of disease.”

Stem cells are master cells that turn into every kind of human tissue, and scientists believe they could be used to replace diseased cells in people suffering from spinal cord injury, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and other ailments.

The cell bank was established at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control at Potter’s Bar, 12 miles north of London. Located on a quiet country lane, its mission is to store and grow cells and distribute them to researchers worldwide.

“Stem cell research is still at a very early stage,” said Dr. Glyn Stacey, the manager of the bank. “It is very important that there is a facility which can be in a position to provide ready access to good quality, well characterized stem cells.”

— Wire Reports

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