Israel begins unilateral Gaza cease-fire

JERUSALEM - Israel implemented a unilateral cease-fire early Sunday in its 22-day offensive that turned Gaza neighborhoods into battlegrounds and dealt a stinging blow to the Islamic militants of Hamas. But Israeli troops will stay in the Palestinian territory for now and Hamas threatened to keep fighting until they leave.

In announcing the cease-fire late Saturday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel had achieved its goals and more.

Chavez says Castro alive

CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that Cuba's ailing former president is alive and active - dismissing rumors Fidel Castro is gravely ill or dead.

Concerns over Castro's health have grown since he sent a terse a one-line message to the Cuban people on his revolution's 50th anniversary Jan. 1 and his friend Chavez said last week that it is unlikely Castro will be seen in public again.

But Chavez said in a speech to supporters that Castro had written to him 'just a little while ago.'

2 US troops killed in two Afghanistan attacks

KABUL, Afghanistan - A suicide car bomb attack Saturday on a heavily guarded road between a U.S. military base and the German Embassy in the Afghan capital killed one U.S. service member and four Afghan civilians, officials said.

Separately, a U.S. service member died when militants fired at a CH-47 transport helicopter and it made a 'hard landing' in eastern Kunar province, the U.S. military said. Military spokesman Col. Greg Julian said it wasn't immediately clear whether the incoming fire brought down the helicopter.

Christian killed in Iraqi city

BAGHDAD - The Christian owner of a car repair shop was killed execution-style in Mosul, police said Saturday, raising concern about the possibility of new attacks against the religious minority in the northern Iraqi city.

The body of the 36-year-old man, who was shot in the head, was found Thursday, according to police and hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.