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Nov. 16, 2012 at 8:01 AM   |   Comments

Egypt PM says Gaza is 'a disaster'

JERUSALEM, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said Friday he witnessed "a disaster" in Gaza after Israeli attacks against rocket-firing militants.

The Israeli military attacked at least 130 targets and militants returned fire with 11 rockets launched from Gaza, the BBC reported.

At least 20 Palestinians and three Israelis have died since Israel began its offensive Wednesday.

The Israeli army began drafting 16,000 reservists after the government authorized the call-up of 30,000 troops.

Qandil visited the Council of Ministers building and a hospital in the city of Gaza, the BBC said

"What I am witnessing in Gaza is a disaster and I can't keep quiet. The Israeli aggression must stop," he said.

Qandil, who met with members of Hamas, which has governned Gaza since 2007, said Egypt would "spare no effort" to try to broker a cease-fire.

"Egypt is not planning to get the Palestinians to escalate; we are supporting them, but we don't want them to escalate," one official told Ahram Online. "On the contrary, we want a truce as soon as possible."

Qandil is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot.

Violence intensified in Gaza after Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari was killed Wednesday in an Israeli air attack. Israel said it had targeted dozens of rocket-launching sites and militants said they fired more than 350 rockets from Gaza.


Japan's Parliament dissolved, election set

TOKYO, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, facing gloomy economic forecasts, cleared the way for a Dec. 16 election Friday by dissolving Parliament's lower house.

Noda's decision for an early general election could mean his struggling Democratic Party of Japan may lose power it has held since 2009, with the return of the Liberal Democratic Party to leadership, Kyodo News reported.

The opposition has been pressing Noda to keep a promise, made in August, to go to the people "sometime soon" for their support in passing a key bill to double the 5 percent sales tax by 2015, the report said.

The announcement came on the same day the Noda government reduced its forecast for the economy for the fourth straight month, citing the global economic slowdown, which has adversely affected exports.

Earlier this week, the government reported the economy shrank at an annualized 3.5 percent in the July-September quarter, which represented a 0.9 percent contraction in the gross domestic product from the previous quarter. Another contraction in the next quarter could push the economy into a recession.

Kyodo said ratings for Noda's Party have plunged to roughly half of the opposition LDP's in recent opinion polls.

Noda is Japan's sixth prime minister in six years.


Petraeus testimony follows Benghazi video

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. lawmakers said they saw a video of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya as ex-CIA Director David Petraeus prepared to testify Friday on Capitol Hill.

"A lot of light was shone on this situation," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters after the 4-hour closed-door hearing. "But we don't have all the facts yet."

Feinstein said she expected to ask Petraeus about his visit to the CIA's station in Tripoli, Libya's capital, two weeks ago to investigate the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, including two CIA contractors.

"He interviewed many of the people, as I understand it, that were involved," Feinstein said. "So the opportunity to get his views, I think, is very important."

She added her committee would hold at least three additional hearings on the matter after Petraeus offers his account of the attack.

Feinstein said Wednesday Friday's closed-door hearing would not address Petraeus' extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

The video shown Thursday included footage from surveillance cameras and an unmanned Predator drone, Feinstein said.

"The film is a composite from a number of sources," she said. "It is real time. It does begin from ... before the incident started, and it goes through the incident and the exodus."


Petraeus scandal: Kelley sought $80M fee

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- A CIA probe into ex-chief David Petraeus may offer "lessons," a spokesman said, as a report suggested the scandal's women tried to profit from the relationship.

The investigation by CIA Inspector General David B. Buckley will be an in-house inquiry, agency spokesman Preston Golson told reporters.

"If there are lessons to be learned from this case, we'll use them to improve," he said. "But we're not getting ahead of ourselves. An investigation is exploratory and doesn't presuppose any particular outcome."

A key focus on the inquiry will be whether Petraeus misused his position -- and the security details, private jets and special accommodations that came with it -- to facilitate his extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, a person familiar with the investigation told The New York Times.

Petraeus resigned as CIA director a week ago after acknowledging he had the affair. Petraeus, 60, and Broadwell, 40, are both married with children.

Another married woman, 37-year-old Jill Kelley, a Tampa, Fla., socialite mother of three active in local military circles and a close personal friend of Petraeus, triggered an FBI probe that led to Petraeus' downfall by alerting an aggressive FBI agent to anonymous emails that accused her of inappropriately flirtatious behavior toward Petraeus.

The sender of those emails turned out to be Broadwell.

The FBI probe also ensnared U.S. Marine Corps. Gen. John R. Allen, leader of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Defense Department says it is investigating thousands of emails between Kelley and Allen.

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