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Nov. 18, 2012 at 6:01 PM
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Netanyahu warns of 'significant expansion'

JERUSALEM, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Israel said its forces killed a top Hamas militant in an airstrike but Hamas said the strike killed 10 members of a family, including children, at their home.

Israeli subsequently said the Hamas militant in question, Yehya Bayaa, may have survived the Sunday attack on a home in Gaza.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told reporters before his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday Israel is prepared to escalate its military operation.

"We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the (other) terrorist organizations, and [Israel's military] is prepared for a significant expansion of its operations," Netanyahu said.

Israeli officials said about 120 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza Sunday -- with at least 38 of them intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile-defense system. However one rocket struck a vehicle in the town of Ofakim, injuring an undetermined number of people, and another struck a carport at a home with a woman inside the home, CNN said.

U.N., Arab League and European diplomats -- including French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius -- have been trying to defused the violence.

"War can be avoided.," Fabius said after meeting Sunday with Netanyahu. "War must be avoided."

President Barack Obama said Sunday violence in Gaza threatened to further complicate the already slow progress toward a lasting peace in the region.

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

Speaking at a news conference in Thailand Sunday, the president said he had been in contact with the leaders of Egypt and Turkey and reminded them that a workable deal to end the current violence was vital.

"What I have said ... is that those who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future," he said.

Obama said halting Hamas rocket attacks was a required first step toward getting Israel to wind down its counteroffensive.

"There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," he said. "So we are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself from missiles landing on people's homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians."

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said his government was willing to consider a cease-fire but only after a total halt to rocket fire on Israel, Israel Radio said.

The New York Times said a missile struck an apartment building in Ashkelon but there was no word of any casualties.

Explosions were heard around Gaza City, and Israeli forces said they knocked out a transmitter that Hamas had been using on the roof of a building used by international journalists.

House intel chair: No proof of coverup

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- A top congressional Republican said the White House "narrative was wrong and the intelligence was right" following the attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" the political controversy surrounding the Obama administration's characterization of the attack in Benghazi resulted in part from an administration decision not to mention the likelihood the Sept. 11 raid was a terrorist attack.

"The intelligence community had it right and they had it right early," he said. "What happened was it worked its way up through the system of the so-called talking points, which everyone refers to and then it went up to what's called a deputy's committee."

Rogers said the narrative of what happened in Benghazi changed at the deputy's committee, "populated by appointees from the administration."

Asked whether he thought anyone in the government deliberately misled the public for political reasons, Rogers said: "I know the narrative was wrong and the intelligence was right. Now, getting between there and there I think you have to be careful about making those accusations. I think you should have to prove it."

"This isn't just about parsing words and who was right," he said. "There was some policy decisions made based on the narrative that was not consistent with the intelligence that we had. That's my concern."

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she was concerned about "the politicization of a public statement that was put out by the entire intelligence committee," which she said U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used as the basis for public comments five days after the attack.

"She was within the context of that statement," Feinstein said. "And for this, she has been pilloried for two months. I don't understand it.

"It has to stop."

Obama says Myanmar not a perfect democracy

BANGKOK, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama said democracy in Myanmar is a work in progress and his upcoming visit to the nation is not a signal that reforms have gone far enough.

Obama told reporters in Thailand Sunday his pending public speech in Myanmar, also known as Burma, would serve to congratulate the population on its progress toward democracy and that the rest of the world is rooting for them.

"This is not an endorsement of the Burmese government," Obama said. "This is an acknowledgement that there's a process under way inside that country that even 1 1/2-two years ago, nobody foresaw."

Myanmar's military government only recently eased up on human rights, and international activists have said it was too early for Obama's Monday visit. The president said progress should be recognized.

"I don't think anybody is under any illusion that Burma has arrived; that they're where they need to be," he said. "On the other hand, if we waited to engage until they had achieved a perfect democracy, my suspicion is we'd be waiting an awful long time."

Obama met Sunday in Bangkok with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, on the eve of the anniversary of 180 years of diplomacy between the two countries, a joint statement from the two leaders said.

The president "emphasized that Thailand is America's oldest treaty ally in Asia, and the two leaders agreed that this alliance is rooted in the shared commitment to democracy, rule of law, universal human rights, open societies, and a free market, which has bonded the people of the two nations closely together," the statement read.

The two leaders agreed to continued high-level dialogues, creative and educational partnerships, multidimensional engagement to promote regional peace, and the empowerment of women, the statement said.

Obama's final destination on the trip is Cambodia. He will be the first U.S. leader ever to visit the country, which is the most politically unstable of the three on his itinerary.

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

'Entire' Seaside Heights economy at risk

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J., Nov. 18 (UPI) -- New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno told Vice President Joe Biden the "entire economy" of the Seaside Heights resort, struck by superstorm Sandy, may be at risk.

Guadagno accompanied Biden Sunday on a tour of damage from Sandy. When he asked about damage in the Seaside Heights region, she said, "If we dont get Seaside Heights back up, we're going to lose our entire economy."

When he asked about damage further south, in the Cape May area, he was told damage was not as severe as it was around Seaside Heights.

Biden and Guadagno toured the Seaside Heights area with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., and several Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.

After a helicopter tour, Biden traveled by a motorcade to a firehouse in Seaside Heights, where he met with firefighters, police officers and local officials.

"How many of you guys are out of your homes right now?" Biden asked.

Most of those in attendance raised their hands.

Following a tour of devastation along the Seaside Heights boardwalk, Biden said the federal government will help New Jersey and other affected states rebuild.

"This is going to be a long process. this is going to be an expensive process," he said.

"This is a national responsibility," he said. "this is not a local responsibility.

"If you're not an Easterner it's hard to understand that the ocean to us is the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park and everything else combined," Biden said. "It is a gigantic part of not only our economy but who we are. It's a gigantic part of the culture as well."

The vice president noted that New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut and other eastern states respond "every time the rest of the country is in real trouble."

"And it's going to be a heavy lift. These are difficult times in terms of budgets but the president has made it clear that we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the [Army Corps of Engineers] is fully funded, that FEMA has their needs and that all the programs that exist under the auspices of the federal government not only continue to exist but are funded so that we can make sure that this area of the country is fully, fully, fully restored.

"So as the president said when he was up here with the governor, we're not going anywhere," said Biden, who was born in Pennsylvania and has lived most of his life in Delaware. "We're not -- not -- going anywhere. And you've got a homeboy in the deal who gets it."

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