The North Cape oil spill occurs as an engine fire forces the tugboat Scandia ashore on Moonstone Beach in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. The North Cape Barge is pulled along with it and leaks 820,000 gallons of home heating oil.
An Indonesian ferry sinks off the northern tip of Sumatra, drowning more than 100 people.
The American Embassy in Athens, Greece, comes under mortar fire.
Begum Khaleda Zia is re-elected as Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The country's second democratic election is marred by low voter turnout, due to several boycotts and pre-election violence, which has resulted in at least thirteen deaths.
March 13 – Dunblane massacre: Unemployed former shopkeeper Thomas Hamilton walks into the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland and opens fire, killing sixteen infant school pupils and one teacher before committing suicide.
March 14 – An international peace summit is held in Egypt in response to escalating terrorist attacks in the Middle East.
Comet Hale-Bopp is seen passing at perihelion. The comet’s orbit shortened considerably to a period of roughly 2,533 years, and it will next return to the inner Solar System around the year 4380 or 4385.
1996 Everest disaster: A sudden storm engulfs Mount Everest with several climbing teams high on the mountain, leaving eight people dead. By the end of the month, at least four other climbers die in the worst season of fatalities on the mountain to date.
June – Iraq disarmament crisis: As Iraq continues to refuse inspectors access to a number of sites, the United States fails in its attempt to build support for military action against Iraq in the UN Security Council.
June 1–3 – The Czech Republic's first general election ends inconclusively. Prime Minister Václav Klaus and his incumbent Civic Democratic Party emerge as the winners, but are unable to form a majority government. President Václav Havel refuses to invite Klaus to form a coalition.
July 12 – Hurricane Bertha: made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 2 storm, causing $270 million in damage ($440 million in present-day terms) to the United States and its possessions and many indirect deaths.
July 16 – An outbreak of E. colifood poisoning in Japan results in 6,000 children being ill, including two deaths, after a group of school children eat contaminated lunches.
September 5 – Hurricane Fran makes landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina as a Category 3 storm with 115 mph (185 km/h) sustained winds. Fran caused over $3 billion in damages ($4.89 billion in present-day terms) and killed 27 people, mainly in North Carolina. The name "Fran" was retired due to the extensive damage.
November – Iraq disarmament crisis: UNSCOM inspectors uncover buried prohibited missile parts. Iraq refuses to allow UNSCOM teams to remove remnants of missile engines for analysis outside of the country.