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Nov. 20, 2012 at 8:05 AM   |   Comments

Rocket fire, airstrikes amid truce talks

JERUSALEM, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Israel has yet to make a final decision concerning Egypt's proposal for a cease-fire with Hamas, Israeli officials said Tuesday.

Nine members of Israel's security Cabinet continued discussions concerning a proposed truce between Israel and Hamas after talks late Monday night failed to produce decisions, Israel Radio said.

Winding up his visit in Cairo, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, was to arrive in Israel Tuesday. Ban urged all sides to "halt fire immediately."

"Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk," he said.

Ban was to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before traveling to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, also visiting Israel, met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Netanyahu. He told the Israeli prime minister Israel has the right to defend itself against rocket attacks but expressed concern over the repercussions of a possible ground offensive, Israel Radio said.


Obama keeping tabs on Gaza

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The White House said President Barack Obama has spoken with both Israeli and Egyptian leaders about diffusing the situation in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

The president, who is visiting Cambodia, called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday night, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Phnom Penh.

He said Obama had a second conversation with the Egyptian president to discuss Egypt's constructive role in seeking to bring about a de-escalation that brings an end to rocket fire at Israeli cities.

"I think we all agree that the best way to solve this is through diplomacy so that you have a peaceful settlement that ends that rocket fire and allows for broader calm in the region," Carney said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is traveling with the president, heads to the Middle East Tuesday to meet with regional leaders and consult on the situation in Gaza.

Clinton will travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo to consult on Gaza, Carney said.


Lebanon foils rocket attack on Israel

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The Lebanese army said it discovered two Katyusha rockets about 2 miles from the Israeli border and foiled a plot to attack at Israel, Lebanese officials said.

The rockets were defused by Lebanese security forces Monday, sources told The Daily Star. The sources said every time there is a round of violence between Israel and Gaza, militants attempt to fire rockets in solidarity with Gaza.

Israeli military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said Palestinian factions in Lebanon are probably behind the rocket plot.

"It is a good thing they were stopped," he said Monday on Israel's Channel 10.

The rockets have a range of 4 miles, a source told the daily.

"An army patrol unit discovered this afternoon in the area between the village of Halta and Mari ... two 107mm Grad rockets set to launch," a statement released by the Lebanese army said.

The army is investigating the incident, the statement said.


Colombian one-sided truce amid peace talks

BOGOTA, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A one-sided cease-fire by Colombia's main rebel group began Tuesday as Bogota said it would keep pursuing the rebels militarily amid peace talks in Havana.

The promise by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, to halt all "offensive military operations," including infrastructure sabotage, is meant to "strengthen the climate of understanding needed for starting the dialogue to achieve the purpose desired by all Colombians," the FARC said in a statement.

The statement was posted on the FARC website and read by FARC second-in-command and chief negotiator Ivan Marquez in Havana Monday on the first of 10 days of peace talks.

But Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno told reporters in the Colombian capital Bogota would continue its military operation against the rebels because "the reality shows us that this terrorist organization has never complied with anything."

"It's very hard to believe they are able to stop murdering children and making attacks against civilians like the ones we have seen in recent weeks," he said.


Court tosses blasphemy case against teen

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A Pakistani court dismissed blasphemy charges Tuesday against a Christian teenager whose case and treatment led to international outrage.

The decision follows weeks of uncertainty for Rimsha Masih and her family, who were forced to go into hiding because of the furor surrounding the case that began in August when she was arrested on allegations she burned pages of the Koran, CNN reported.

The high court in Islamabad found the accusations were legally unsound, said Abdul Hameed Rana, one of the girl's lawyers.

Police arrested Masih after she was accused by a neighbor of burning pages of the Muslim holy book, which the girl denied.

The case took a twist in September when police arrested a local imam on allegations he framed the teenager. Police said witnesses told them they saw cleric Khalid Jadoon Chishti rip pages from a Koran and put them in a bag of ashes cited as evidence against Masih. The imam's lawyers last month said three witnesses recanted their statement during a bail hearing.

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