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Israel Continues Gaza Offensive For Third Day


ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS: An Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip has in its third day, with the Palestinian death toll from air strikes reaching at least 310.
A tally today (Monday) by a U.N. aid agency said at least 51 civilians have been killed in Gaza since Saturday. A (UNRWA) spokesman said the estimate is based on data from medical and hospital sources in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials said the raids have killed at least 180 Hamas militants.
Witnesses said today Israeli warplanes destroyed the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza City and made at least five strikes against the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip.
Israel says the offensive is in response to repeated militant attacks from Gaza against Israeli territory.
Israel's army today declared areas around the Gaza Strip a "closed military zone," a move that in the past has been followed by ground assaults throughout Gaza.

SOMALIA POL: Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed made the announcement today (Monday) in a speech before parliament. He said the speaker of parliament would take over his duties.
Mr. Yusuf recently acknowledged that his United Nations-backed government controls only the capital city of Mogadishu and the parliament seat of Baidoa.
The government recently reached a peace deal with a moderate Islamist group, the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia. But hardline Islamists rejected the deal and have continued taking over towns in the country's center and south.
Fighting over the last two years, involving Ethiopian-backed government forces and a variety of Islamist groups, has killed thousands of Somalis and displaced at least a million others.

THAI POL: A rally by thousands of supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has forced Thailand's newly-elected prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to postpone his first speech possibly until later in the week.
Mr. Thaksin's followers, many dressed in red, blocked entrances to the country's parliament building, where Mr. Abhisit was scheduled to deliver his opening policy statement this (Monday) morning (at 0230 UTC).
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said political leaders would not bow to protester demands that they walk through the crowds to Parliament house.
He said such actions could jeopardize the safety of people on both sides.

NOKOR-KIM JONG IL: North Korea's state-run Central News Agency says Kim Jong Il has attended a concert, in his latest reported public appearance since suffering a suspected stroke in August.
Today's (Monday) report says the audience enthusiastically welcomed the North Korean leader. It did not indicate the date of the symphony orchestra performance.
The story follows a series of undated state media reports of the North Korean leader's visits to state-run factories, military units and a soccer game since October.

BANGLADESH-ELECTION: Voting is under way in Bangladesh in a landmark parliamentary election aimed at restoring democracy after nearly two years of emergency rule.
Election officials say the eight-hour polling began this (Monday) morning (at 8 a.m. local time/0200 UTC) in more than 35-thousand centers across the country under tight security.
Turnout is expected is to be high after Bangladesh's chief election commissioner (A.T.M. Shamsul Huda) urged more than 81 million eligible voters to go to the polls in record numbers.
In a televised address Sunday, the head of the interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, called for mutual respect and solidarity.

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