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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Hamas continues to fire its rockets

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Israel continues to press its assault and Hamas continues to fire its rockets, but a sliver of hope emerged tonight toward an end to the Gaza hostilities, MSNBC reports. Representatives from Israel, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority will meet—probably separately—with Egyptian officials in Cairo tomorrow to discuss a possible truce. Twelve days of fighting have left 688 Palestinians and 10 Israelis dead.

Condoleezza Rice voiced support for the proposal. “We are very much applauding the efforts of a number of states, particularly the effort that President Mubarak has undertaken on behalf of Egypt,” she said. “We’re supporting that initiative.” The UN Security Council has failed to agree on any kind of a resolution regarding the fighting.(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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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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