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Nov. 18, 2012 at 10:00 AM
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Israel says Gaza airstrikes to continue

JERUSALEM, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue airstrikes on Gaza targets.

Netanyahu said the air force has conducted over 1,000 strikes on Gaza targets since the military operation began five days ago. "Israel Defense Forces is prepared to expand the operation... ," he was quoted as saying.

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lierbman said Israel is willing to consider a ceasefire but only after a total halt to rocket fire on Israel, Israel Radio said.

Towards noon the Iron Dome missile defense battery intercepted at least one missile fired towards Tel Aviv as rockets continued to slam southern Israel.

Sirens sounded in Rishon Letzion, Holon and Bat Yam in the Gush Dan area surrounding Tel Aviv, warning of an incoming rocket. No one was injured but shrapnel damaged a vehicle, the army said. Israel Police said two missiles were intercepted by the defense system.

Hamas later claimed responsibility, Israel Radio said. Hamas said it was in response to an Israeli attack on a media building that houses a number of networks in Gaza earlier in the morning. The Israeli army said the strike was targeting a Hamas transmitter on the roof of the building.

Missiles have been fired towards Tel Aviv a number of times since Friday, all were intercepted by the missile defense battery. On Friday night, two rockets were fired towards Jerusalem.

As Israel's "Operation Pillar of Defense" entered its fifth day, Palestinians said more than 62 had been killed and over 400 injured in more than 1,000 Israeli air strikes in Gaza. Three Israelis have been killed and dozens injured from rockets fired at southern Israel.

An Israeli rescue worker suffered a serious head injury when a mortar shell fired from Gaza exploded in the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council area. Other rockets were fired at Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Beer Tuviya and other areas in the South causing injuries and extensive damage to property.

Schools and learning institutions within a 25 mile radius of the Gaza Strip remained closed.

The head of Hamas missile production in Gaza was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the afternoon and ten members of a family when their home was bombed in a separate airstrike causing it to collapse.

Over the weekend, the Israeli security cabinet approved the call-up of some 75,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. Tens of thousands of reservists are already deployed near the Gaza border in preparation for a possible offensive.

Palestinians have fired over 800 rockets since Wednesday, with the majority falling in open areas and some 300 intercepted by five Israeli Iron Dome missile defense systems, the army said.

Ahram Online said Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Ramadan Shalah, head of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza, spoke by telephone Sunday. The Egyptian website said Haniyeh demanded guarantees and assurances that Israel would cease airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

Al-Jazeeera reported Morsi also met Sunday in Cairo with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal.

Egypt's Intelligence Minister Rafat Shehata is leading efforts to bring about a ceasefire and according to the Hamas run Palestinian Information Center site, met with Meshaal in Cairo Saturday.

Morsi also met with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as Qatari leader Sheik Hamed bin Khalifa al-Thani to discuss the Gaza crisis, the Egyptian website said. There are discussions that a committee will be formed to monitor events in Gaza.

Iran said it plans to send a delegation of parliamentarians to Gaza in the coming days and is currently trying to facilitate their entry with Egyptian officials,

A number of international leaders are due to visit the region in the coming days with the aim of restoring calm to the region and ending hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius will arrive in Jerusalem Sunday for meetings before traveling to Ramallah. Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is also due in Israel, the radio said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to arrive Tuesday, Israel's Channel 2 said.

Bangladesh shantytown fire kills 11

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Fire roared through a shantytown in the capital of Bangladesh early Sunday, killing 11 people and destroying at least 500 homes, emergency officials said.

Dhaka fire department spokesman Ataur Rahman told Bangladesh News 24 Hours it took crews more than four hours to put down the fire that began around 3 a.m. on the city's outskirts.

The known dead were six women and five children, eight of whom were found on the ground floor of a 2-story dilapidated building, police said.

At least five people were taken to hospitals with burns and smoke inhalation, the report said.

There were unconfirmed reports the fire started in a garage for rickshaws.

City, district and federal officials said all efforts would be made to help rebuild the burned-out homes, the news website reported.

Obama starts goodwill Southeast Asia tour

BANGKOK, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama arrived in Thailand Sunday to begin a diplomatic goodwill tour that will include stops in Myanmar and Cambodia.

In Bangkok, Obama's first stop was an ancient monastery, then on to visit 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is hospitalized, The New York Times reported.

Obama was then to meet with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and attend a state dinner.

The president will depart Monday for a brief visit to Myanmar. The country's ruling military junta has softened slightly on human rights in recent years and Obama's visit is meant to encourage further social progress, the newspaper said. Myanmar is also trying to quell ethnic violence against Muslims in the northern state of Rakhine.

His final destination is Cambodia, making him the first U.S. leader to visit the country. It is the most politically unstable of the three countries Obama is visiting on this trip. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, has ruled for more than 25 years with rapid police response to political dissent.

The Times said Obama's tour was meant to substantiate his campaign pledges of giving Asian countries more foreign policy attention.

Doc allegedly had bomb-making chemicals

RIDGEWOOD, N.J., Nov. 18 (UPI) -- An out-of-work physician was arrested after chemicals that could be used to make bombs were found at his New Jersey home, authorities said Saturday.

Roberto Rivera, 60, of Ridgewood, who had voiced support for the Occupy movement last year, was charged with recklessly creating a risk of widespread injury and unlawful possession of a destructive device, a large-capacity ammunition magazine and a stun gun, The (Bergen County) Record reported.

Rivera also was found to have assault rifles and other weapons in his home, which police searched Friday night, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said.

His bail was set at $1 million, the newspaper said.

Authorities said Rivera has a license to practice medicine in New York state, The Record said. Rivera's license lists an address in Yonkers in New York City, the newspaper said.

While Rivera had expressed support for the Occupy movement last year, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman said organizers had distanced themselves from him.

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