ລິ້ງ ສຳຫລັບເຂົ້າຫາ

Israel Pounds Gaza With New Strikes


GAZA - ISRAEL: Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with new strikes today, as Israeli leaders prepared to decide whether to end their three-week offensive against Palestinian group Hamas. In the northern town of Beit Lahiya, United Nations officials say two children were killed when Israeli shelling hit a U.N.-run school where hundreds of civilians had taken refuge. At least 14 other people were wounded. A spokesman for the U.N. relief agency in Gaza condemned the attack and called for an investigation. Israel has shelled several U.N. facilities since it began its offensive.

AFGHANISTAN: Officials in Afghanistan say a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul has killed two Afghan civilians and wounded more than 20 other people, including six U.S. troops. The explosion went off today near a U.S. military base and the German Embassy on a heavily-guarded road lined with concrete blast barriers. German Foreign Ministry officials said German staff members were also wounded in the blast. Both the German building and the American base sustained damage. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. Later in the day, another suicide bombing killed a civilian in eastern Afghanistan.

RUSSIA - EUROPE GAS: Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has left Kyiv for Moscow for talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to try to solve the two-week gas dispute that has disrupted supplies to Europe. In a parallel development, the European Union has offered to send two representatives to a separate gas "summit" in Moscow, but only if Ukraine also takes part. Ukrainian leaders say they do not oppose a summit but insist it be held on neutral ground in Brussels or Prague. No European heads of state have publicly announced plans to travel to Moscow for the meeting.

NOKOR NUCLEAR: North Korea's foreign ministry said today that the Stalinist state would not give up its nuclear capability as long as it feels threatened by the United States. A ministry spokesman said it would be wrong for the United States to think Pyongyang would give up nuclear weapons in exchange for normalizing diplomatic ties. On Tuesday, North Korean officials called for denuclearization of both Koreas, claiming that the United States military in the South has nuclear weapons. Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean foreign ministry officials as calling the demand "distorted," and saying there are no U.S. nuclear arms in South Korea.

US INAUGURATION TRAIN: U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes a historic railroad journey overlaid with symbolism today when he retraces President Abraham Lincoln's trip from Philadelphia to Washington for his inauguration in 1861. Huge crowds are expected to greet the train carrying the president-elect as it makes its way from the nation's Pennsylvania birthplace to the nation's capital. It will stop along the way at Wilmington, Delaware - home of Vice-president elect Joe Biden - and Baltimore, Maryland. Presidential Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Natalie Wyeth said the association with President Lincoln is particularly meaningful to Mr. Obama, because not only were both men from Illinois, but Abraham Lincoln signed the order ending slavery in the U.S.

US - IRAN - STONING: The United States has condemned the recent stoning death of two men in Iran for adultery. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement Friday demanding an end to what he called such "cruel and unusual" punishment. He said the practice does not meet the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified. McCormack called on Iran to not only permanently abolish the practice of stoning, but to offer all defendants fair and transparent trials. International rights group Amnesty International urged Iran to declare an immediate moratorium on executions by stoning, including in the cases of 10 people currently at risk of such punishment.

THAILAND REFUGEES: Thai officials say they are investigating reports that the Thai navy forced hundreds of refugees out to sea last month, where many of them may have drowned. The Thai navy denies the charges. A foreign ministry statement said today Thai officials were verifying all the facts and surrounding circumstances of the reports. Thai military officials said Friday that they did not force refugees and migrants from Burma and Bangladesh out to sea, rather than deporting them. Survivors who spoke to journalists and human rights groups said they were detained by the Thai navy on a remote island for several days before being towed out to sea.

MALAYSIA - POL: Voters in northeast Malaysia go to the polls today to decide a closely-fought parliamentary race that is being seen as a key test for the country's ruling coalition. Opinion polls suggest today's by-election in Kuala Terengganu will be a tight race between the ruling coalition's candidate and a conservative Islamic party (-- the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) rival. A third, independent candidate lags behind in popularity. A recent survey (by the Merdeka Center) found that most ethnic Chinese voters -- about 11-percent of the electorate -- favor the opposition candidate.

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