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Jan. 31, 2013 at 8:04 AM   |   Comments

Israel mute on reported attack in Syria

JERUSALEM, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Israel stayed mute more than 24 hours after its reported attack on a convoy in Syria allegedly carrying anti-aircraft weapons for Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

"We do not comment on reports of this kind," an Israeli army spokeswoman said.

"We are not relating to the incident," a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry had a similar response.

The ministries and prime minister's office also refused to comment on Syria's allegation Israeli jet fighters had bombed a Syrian scientific military research facility and not a truck convoy.

U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal the bombed vehicles may have been close to a military facility.

The attack was the first by Israel's air force in Syria in more than five years. The two countries are in a technical state of war, despite recognizing their decades-old armistice line.

Jerusalem has long maintained a policy of silence on pre-emptive military strikes. To this day, Israel has not formally acknowledged a September 2007 bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor.

U.S. officials told The New York Times Jerusalem notified Washington about the attack, which Damascus called an act of "Israeli arrogance and aggression."


Senators to grill Obama's Pentagon pick

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Iran must be stopped from getting nuclear weapons, U.S. Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel told a Senate panel before his confirmation hearing Thursday.

"I agree with the president that the United States should take no options off the table in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," he wrote to the Senate Armed Services Committee -- part of a 112-page document answering its members' policy questions -- ahead of his 9:30 a.m. EST hearing.

The former senator from Nebraska has run afoul of members of his own party for his close relationships with Democrats, including President Barack Obama.

Many Republicans and some Democrats have painted him as hostile toward Israel and ready to appease Iran. Some opponents have also said he may be too ready to cut military spending.

"If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that the U.S. military is in fact prepared for any contingency," Hagel, who received the Purple Heart twice for wounds while an infantry squad leader in the Vietnam War, told the committee in his written remarks.

As a senator, Hagel broke with many in his party on the Foreign Relations Committee to criticize the management of the Iraq war after initially supporting the U.S.-led invasion.


Alabama hostage extends into Thursday

MIDLAND CITY, Ala., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The standoff between a 65-year-old man holding a child hostage in a bunker and law enforcement personnel dragged into Thursday in Midland City, Ala.

Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said during a news update Wednesday he had "no reason to believe" the 6-year-old boy was harmed and authorities provided coloring books, crayons and medicine for the boy, CNN reported.

The gunman, identified by neighbors as Vietnam veteran and retired truck driver Jimmy Lee Dykes, rushed a school bus Tuesday afternoon and demanded the driver hand over two children. When he refused, police and witnesses said Dykes shot and killed the driver, Charles Poland Jr., 66.

The other children fled.

A motive has not been revealed. Officials said it seems the man and child don't know each other.


TV: Phoenix shoot suspect had legal fight

PHOENIX, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Phoenix police sought an armed 70-year-old man suspected in an office shooting that left a legal adversary dead and the dead man's lawyer critically wounded.

The suspect, Arthur D. Harmon, was reported in a legal battle with a telephone call center, KNXV-TV, Phoenix, reported.

The call center's chief executive officer, Steven D. Singer, 48, was killed in the shooting. A lawyer representing Singer was shot and in critical condition.

Officers early Thursday hunted Harmon, last seen in a white 2013 rented four-door Kia Optima with Arizona license plate AVS-2052, Sgt. Tommy Thompson said.

Authorities said Singer, head of Fusion Contract Centers Inc., was attending a mediation session at a law firm at the office building, The Arizona Republic reported.


N.Y. Times: Chinese hackers attacked it

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The New York Times says Chinese hackers had been attacking its computer systems for four months until it was stopped by its security experts.

The newspaper said attacks began in September as it was getting ready to publish an article saying billions of dollars of personal fortunes had been accumulated by the family of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao through business dealings.

The newspaper said it asked its computer network monitor AT&T to look for unusual activity after Chinese officials reportedly talked of consequences for the newspaper's article on the Wen family.

The report said Chinese hackers "have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees" for the past four months.

The newspaper said it hired computer security experts to track the intruders to study their movements and build better defenses to block them and since then the hackers haven't been able to break back into the newspaper's systems.

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