Israel – Lebanon:
Arabic television stations are reporting at least nine Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail. Israeli military officials have said several soldiers were shot during the fierce battle for control of the town, but they have not reported any deaths. The town located about four kilometers from the Israeli border is described as a regional base of Hezbollah guerrillas. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed "deep regret" over the killing of four members of a United Nations observer team in an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon on Tuesday.
Israel – Palestinians: Palestinian medics say at least 10 people, includin
g a child, were killed during clashes between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip early today (Wednesday).
Witnesses say among the dead were six gunmen from the governing Hamas group and one Islamic Jihad member, who were killed in pre-dawn battles that broke out after Israeli troops backed by tanks and bulldozers moved into northern Gaza.
Dozens of people, including a Palestinian and a Japanese journalist, were also wounded in Israeli air strikes. Israel says the air strikes were aimed at militants.
Iraq: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will address lawmakers in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives today (Wednesday).
Mr. Maliki will be trying to shore up support for his young government as it seeks to end the rising sectarian violence in Iraq. Many U.S. lawmakers have voiced concern over the increased bloodshed, and want assurances the Iraqi leader can bring all the factions together. But Mr. Maliki is also facing strong criticism from Democratic lawmakers for his condemnation of Israel's offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
Iran Nuclear: Diplomats from the United States and key European nations say the U.N. Security Council is moving closer toward agreement on a resolution that would order Iran to stop enriching uranium. The draft resolution now under consideration gives Iran about a month to comply with the Security Council's order. If Tehran does not suspend its nuclear program, it would face economic sanctions.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, says a meeting Tuesday (about wording of the resolution) was "the most productive session" negotiators have had.
Thailand - Bird Flu: Health authorities in Thailand say local medical tests show a teenage boy has died of the H5N1 bird flu virus in the north of the country. If confirmed by the World Health Organization, the teenager would be Thailand's first bird flu fatality since December last year, and the country's 15th death overall.
Thailand's health ministry says the boy died Monday in a hospital in Pichit province after falling ill earlier this month. Officials say the boy had helped his family bury dead chickens.
Thailand reported Tuesday that bird flu had reappeared on a poultry farm in Pichit, representing the country's first outbreak of the virus in eight months.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has wrapped up its annual meeting of foreign ministers after taking a strong stance on the Mideast conflict and a milder one on Burma. ASEAN foreign ministers called on the United Nations Security Council today (Tuesday) to demand an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. They also called on the U.N. to deploy peacekeeping troops in the region. Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi called Israel's bombing campaign in Lebanon an unconscionable act of collective punishment on the Lebanese people. Mr. Badawi is ASEAN's current chairman.
ASEAN's members are Malaysia, Burma, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Brunei.
Lebanon Diplomacy: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has repeated his call for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East, calling the Israel-Hezbollah conflict "horrendous and dangerous."
Mr. Annan spoke in Rome today (Wednesday) at a conference on the situation. He urged Hezbollah to stop targeting Israeli population centers, and he called on Israel to end its blockade, bombardments and ground operations in Lebanon.
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