Today's Papers

Unintelligible Last Words

The New York Timesleads with Hamas announcing that it will, once again, carry out attacks against Israel after what seems like an Israeli artillery fire killed at least seven civilians and wounded 30 in a Gaza beach. The Washington Poststuffs the Hamas story andleads with—and the rest of the papers front—news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi survived the bomb blast and was hanging onto life when Iraqi and U.S. forces came into the scene. When U.S. troops arrived, Zarqawi tried to move and mumbled some incomprehensible last words before dying. The Los Angeles Timesleads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with U.S. troops in Iraq trying to take advantage of the killing by conducting at least 56 raids on various hideouts related to al-Qaeda and Zarqawi.

The NYT accompanies its lead story with a four-column heart-wrenching photograph of a girl at the Gaza beach crying (the LAT also has the same image). And there’s plenty of room for emotion within the story itself, particularly because among those killed were a husband and wife and their three children, including a 1-year-old baby. Hamas declared that it would end a cease-fire that has been in place for more than a year to avenge the deaths. Israel said that any civilian killings were accidental, explaining they were aiming to hit a launching ground from which Palestinians have fired dozens of rockets into Israeli towns. The Israeli military stopped the shelling in the area after the killings and offered to help the wounded.

Although U.S. officials had said Zarqawi was dead by the time they arrived on the scene, new information revealed otherwise. A U.S. general also told reporters that besides Zarqawi, two men and three women were killed in the blast. Contrary to earlier reports, a child was not killed. The Post and the NYT emphasize there are still several mysteries surrounding the killing. The two main questions seem to be why the U.S. military did not attempt to capture Zarqawi rather than kill him, and why Iraqi police were the first to arrive at the scene.

The raids were a consequence of a “treasure trove” of information U.S. troops recovered from Zarqawi’s hideout as well as intelligence they had gathered before the attack. Even though the U.S. military said the raids resulted in 25 arrests and one death, the WP and NYT both report that some Iraqis dispute the figure, saying raids in and around Zarqawi’s hideout resulted in the death of several civilians.

President Bush declared on Friday that Zarqawi’s death will not end the insurgency, but it will “help a lot.” A front-page story in the Post reports that al-Qaida could suffer a major blow from Zarqawi’s death. Although, as has been repeatedly mentioned, Zarqawi often clashed with leaders of the terrorist group over tactics, he did serve as a central figure in the various insurgent operations and was key to recruitment efforts.

The WSJ reports that Jordanian intelligence officers worked directly with U.S. forces and were responsible for providing key information relating to Zarqawi’s whereabouts. This is seen as a further example of how Jordan has become an important U.S. ally in the war against terror. Jordanian officials stepped up counterterrorism operations, as well as their cooperation with the United States, after the November attacks in Amman.

The NYT reefers a report from Zarqawi’s hometown of Zarqa, Jordan, where family members and others gathered to remember the man they call a hero and martyr. Zarqawi’s family has requested that his body be returned to Jordan for burial. A Jordanian official said the government would not allow Zarqawi’s body to return and “stain Jordanian soil.”

In other Iraq news, the NYT follows up on a story from Thursday’s Boston Globe that reported  the amount of compensation being paid out by the U.S. military to Iraqis for killings or injuries increased by almost 300 percent last year. The payments totaled about $5 million in 2004 and increased to $19.7 million in 2005. Marine units in the Anbar Province made almost half of these payments. This increase can partly be attributed to a change in the rules that makes it easier to carry out the payments, but it is also a symbol of how many civilians continue to die in the conflict.

The WSJ says in a Page One story that although many worry about economic or political upheaval in places such as Nigeria or Iraq impacting the price of oil, one of the “world’s biggest weaknesses” lies in the Gulf of Mexico. Even though last year’s shutdown of a pipeline after Hurricane Katrina was mentioned in the media, most don’t realize how close the country got to the brink of a large-scale gasoline shortage. Steps have been taken to improve the response time to any similar disasters in the future, but, as hurricane season is about to start again, the Journal emphasizes there are still weaknesses in the system.

Everybody notes inside that new figures show a senior aide to House appropriations committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, a California Republican, received almost $2 million when he left a lobbying firm last year. Although eyebrows had already been raised about the $600,000 Jeffrey S. Shockey received when he left the firm, the new data shows that this was the first of several payments. Shockey’s lawyers insist he was merely paid for the value of his partnership, which was based on the money he would have brought to the business.

According to the NYT, U.S. and European officials gave Iran a deadline of June 29 to respond to the package of incentives offered earlier this week to get the country to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

Two down, 62 to go … The NYT and the WP front the opening day of the World Cup. Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in what turned out to be the highest-scoring opening match. The biggest surprise of the day, though, came when Ecuador, who has been to only one World Cup before, defeated the favored Poles 2-0. The NYT mentions how soccer is changing the way Iranians have fun in public, the WP reports that, contrary to tradition, many in England have started flying the flag to show support for their team, and the LAT reports on the huge security operation surrounding the World Cup.