Israel is bombing about 60 targets across the Strip

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Israel intensified its airstrikes in Gaza last night, reports CNN, bombing about 60 targets across the Strip on the 13th day of the operation. One of the targets was a mosque that the Israeli military claims stored weapons and sheltered Hamas fighters. The airstrikes also targeted 10 Hamas tunnels used to funnel arms from Egypt as well as “a number of armed gunmen,” according to an IDF spokesman.

Unconfirmed reports from the south of the Strip also suggested that an Israeli tank protected by helicopters advanced toward the second-largest city of Khan Younis. The death toll in Gaza has now reached 700, while seven Israeli soldiers and three citizens have died. Israel said today that it would once again observe a three-hour truce to allow food, fuel, and humanitarian supplies into Gaza—although fighting continued intermittently during yesterday’s stoppage.(Source)

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The UN today halted all aid deliveries to the besieged Gaza Strip

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The United Nations today halted all aid deliveries to the besieged Gaza Strip, citing a series of Israeli attacks on UN staff and installations. The announcement came shortly after the driver of a UN truck was killed by tank fire as he was headed to an Israeli border crossing to pick up an aid shipment. The UN said the delivery had been coordinated with Israel. The Israeli army has not commented.

A UN spokesman says aid shipments are being suspended until the safety of UN staff can be guaranteed. Earlier this week, nearly 40 people were killed by Israeli mortar fire outside a UN school. Israel said its troops had come under fire by militants using the building for cover. For a second straight day, Israel said it suspended its Gaza military operation for three hours today to allow in humanitarian supplies, but the truck driver came under fire before the pause, the UN says.  (Source)

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Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader urged Muslims to take revenge against Israel

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“My Muslim brothers and mujahedeens in Gaza and all over Palestine, with the help of God we are with you in the battle, we will direct our strikes against the crusader Jewish coalition wherever we can,” said Zawahiri. Obama, who said today he was “deeply concerned” about the loss of life in Gaza, had no immediate response.

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Coleman sues over Minnesota Senate

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Republican Norm Coleman said Tuesday he is suing to challenge Democrat Al Franken‘s apparent recount victory in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race, delaying a resolution of the contest for weeks or months.

At a news conference filled with cheering supporters, Coleman said he won’t accept an electoral board’s determination a day earlier that Franken won 225 more votes in the November election. He had a seven-day window to file the lawsuit.

“We are filing this contest to make absolutely sure every valid vote was counted and no one’s was counted more than anyone else’s,” Coleman said.

Coleman shrugged off the idea that he might concede the election to avoid a protracted fight that could leave Minnesota with only a single senator in Washington for months.

“Something greater than expediency is at stake here,” Coleman said. He added: “Democracy is not a machine. Sometimes it’s messy and inconvenient, and reaching the best conclusion is never quick because speed is not the first objective, fairness is.”

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Hamas Thinks It Has the Upper Hand

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Israel says its military offensive in Gaza has dealt Hamas a heavy blow, but that’s not how the leaders of the radical Palestinian group see it. Their view is based more on a kind of jujitsu that uses Israel’s military momentum against its own political objectives than on any serious belief in rhetoric about the organization’s “steadfast” fighters being able to “crush” the invaders.

Israel had long assumed that Hamas wanted a ground invasion so it could land some blows on the Israeli military in order to claim a propaganda victory once the Israelis inevitably withdrew. Still, by entering Gaza on Saturday, the Israelis calculated that they could draw Hamas into clashes that would substantially weaken the organization, even if Israel suffered some casualties. But despite the ferocity of the fighting that rages in some parts of Gaza, there are indications that Hamas is keeping many of its best fighters out of the direct path of the advancing Israelis. Israeli military officials have noted that resistance has not been as fierce as expected, and that most Israeli soldiers wounded in the operation thus far have been struck by mortar rounds fired from a considerable distance. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel in a symbolic taunt to the Israeli public. (See pictures of Israel’s sweep into Gaza.)

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Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will receive the highest civilian award in the US

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The Presidential Medal of Freedom will be awarded by George W. Bush to Tony Blair, in his last week in office.

The ceremony will take place at the White House on 13 January.

A spokesman for Tony Blair said the award reflected:

the true courage of the men and women of the British armed forces who, through their service and sacrifice, have safeguarded freedom, democracy and human rights around the globe.

Foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey said:

“Tony Blair should be spending next week helping to fix the mess in Gaza, not receiving an award for the biggest foreign policy disaster in recent history and his silence over Guantanamo Bay.”

“It is not surprising that this announcement has been left until after Tony Blair has left office and when George Bush is packing his bags. It is simply too controversial to be sold to voters.”

The medal of freedom, awarded by the US President, is the highest civilian award in the US, alongside the congressional gold medal – awarded by Congress.

Mr Blair was awarded the congressional gold medal in July 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, but he has yet to collect it.(Source:BBC)

Here you can see The Presidential Medal of Freedom.(Picture 1 , Picture 2 )

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World powers to discuss Iran sanctions

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LONDON (Reuters) – The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany will discuss imposing a third round of sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program on Friday.

Iran has refused to stop enriching uranium and the West fears it is bent on producing atomic bombs, which Tehran denies.

The United States, which will be represented by undersecretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns, says it wants to make progress in outlining the sanctions resolution and ministers can then decide on its timing.

Burns said he hoped Russia and China would attend the London meeting with a “serious demeanor”. He said the two countries, major trading partners with Iran, had effectively blocked moves towards a third sanctions resolution for six months.

The United States imposed economic sanctions last week and has not ruled out military action against Iran. Russia believes dialogue rather than more punishment is the way forward while China reacted to the American move by saying it was opposed to imposing sanctions “too rashly”.

Speaking to reporters on Friday on her way to Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington had had some “tactical” differences with China and Russia about the timing and the “depth or breadth” of a Security Council resolution.

“But the Russians — when I talked to (Foreign Minister) Sergei Lavrov yesterday — he said they were prepared to come and work on the text as we agreed when we were together last and we will just have to see how those discussions go,” she said.

The major powers agreed in late September to delay a vote on tougher sanctions until late November at the earliest after it had received reports by the U.N. nuclear watchdog and a European Union negotiator.

After four days of talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Tehran meant to help clear up suspicions about Iran’s atomic activities, both sides expressed satisfaction, Iran’s state broadcaster reported on Thursday.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, is due to report in mid-November about whether Iran has answered questions about its past secret nuclear activity.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week Tehran would not retreat in the dispute and dismissed U.S. offers of broader negotiations if Iran suspended its most sensitive atomic work.

Iran says its program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more oil and gas.

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