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Israel Continues Gaza Ground Offensive Against Hamas


ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS: Israeli troops, backed by columns of tanks and air power, are carrying out a major offensive in the Gaza Strip, expanding a week-long effort to destroy the military capabilities of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Witnesses say Israeli tanks and troops backed by helicopter gunships have reached the outskirts of Gaza City today (Sunday), cutting the territory's largest city off from the rest of Gaza to the south.
Medics say at least 19 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza today during clashes with Israeli forces. Witnesses say some families are fleeing their homes as Israeli troops move deeper into Gaza.


IRAQ: Iraqi security officials say a female suicide bomber has killed at least 35 people and wounded 65 others near the entrance to a Shi'ite shrine in northern Baghdad.
Officials say the bomber set off her explosives among a crowd of pilgrims at a checkpoint to the shrine in the Kadhimiya neighborhood, as Shi'ites prepared for the Ashura holiday later this week.
Security officials say most of the victims of the blast near the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine were Iranian pilgrims, including women and children.

INDONESIA-QUAKES: A series of strong earthquakes struck eastern Indonesia's West Papua province early Sunday, killing at least four people, including a 10-year old girl, and injuring several others.
The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude seven-point-six quake occurred about 150 kilometers northwest of the town of Manokwari, at a depth of 35 kilometers.
Indonesian authorities say a series of powerful aftershocks measuring as strong as 7.3 in magnitude followed the initial quake. Reports from the region say the quakes left several buildings badly damaged and caused at least two buildings to collapse, including the Mutiara hotel in Manokwari.


CHINA-BLAST: China's state media says an explosion at an illegal fireworks factory in eastern China has killed 13 people.
The official Xinhua news agency says the blast occurred Saturday in the city of Weifang in Shandong province. Officials told the media that an abandoned kiln exploded while being used illegally to produce fireworks.
Xinhua says the local government initially reported three fatalities, but the death toll rose after officials found ten more bodies in the factory today (Sunday).
China's huge fireworks industry is notorious for its lax safety standards.

BURMA: Burma marked the 61st anniversary of its independence from Britain today (Sunday).
Amid ceremonies in Burma's administrative capital, Naypyidaw, the military government called on citizens to support elections planned for next year - elections democracy activists say are a sham.
A statement by Burma's leader, General Than Shwe, was read today, calling for cooperation to build a peaceful, modern nation.
An opposition spokesman told VOA (Burmese service) today democracy activists are demanding the military junta release political prisoners, and he called for reconciliation.

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