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WORLD

Wednesday, July 12

Editor's Note: The CNN Wire is a running log of the latest news from CNN World Headquarters, reported by CNN's correspondents and producers, and The CNN Wire editors. "Posted" times are Eastern Daylight.

Israeli airstrikes close Beirut International Airport

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Expanding its military campaign against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas who kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, Israeli fighter jets Thursday bombed Beirut International Airport, sending plumes of smoke into the morning sky, Israel Defense Forces said.

Israeli airstrikes also targeted Hezbollah's al-Manar television station in Beirut's southern suburbs, a Lebanese security source said. Despite the strike, al-Manar continued to broadcast, the source said.

All three of the airport's runways were rendered unusable in the airstrikes and, as a result, the airport was closed, a senior Lebanese aviation official said. Flights have been diverted to nearby Cyprus, the official said.

IDF said it targeted the airport's runways because the airport serves as a central hub for the transfer for weapons and supplies to Hezbollah.

Lebanese Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat called the airport strikes a "general act of war," saying they had nothing to do with Hezbollah, but was instead an attack against the country's "economic interests," especially its tourism industry. (Updated, 2:42 a.m.)

Novak: Leak of CIA agent's name wasn't meant to discredit husband

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Robert Novak, the journalist whose syndicated column triggered the CIA leak investigation, said Wednesday that he doesn't believe that a senior Bush administration official who originally told him Valerie Plame worked at the CIA was leaking that information to discredit her husband, Joe Wilson, because of his criticism of the Iraq war.

In an interview with Fox News, Novak also revealed that when he subsequently asked White House political adviser Karl Rove about the information, Rove confirmed it in an indirect way by asking Novak, "You know that, too?"

Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, has charged that Bush administration officials deliberately leaked his wife's identity to Novak and other journalists in 2003, destroying her career with the CIA, because he publicly challenged the administration's rationale for invading Iraq.

Rove has been cleared in the CIA leak investigation, and the senior official who originally revealed the information has also not been charged with any crime. The only person indicted in the case is Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. However, Libby, who has pleaded not guilty, has not been charged with illegally disclosing Plame's identify. (Posted 9:09 p.m.)

U.S. denounces Hezbollah, wary of Israeli assault

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House denounced Wednesday's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon and criticized Iran and Syria for backing the Islamic militia.

"Hezbollah's actions are not in the interest of the Lebanese people, whose welfare should not be held hostage to the interests of the Syrian and Iranian regimes," the White House said in a written statement.

Israel called the kidnappings an act of war, and Israeli artillery and airstrikes pounded Hezbollah installations in southern Lebanon. But senior U.S. officials said the Israeli moves have raised concern in Washington, which fears the attacks could weaken the government of Prime Minister Fuad Sinora and strengthen the hand of Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian forces.

"We are saying. 'Think before you leap.' Don't overdo it. Don't respond with emotions and end up bringing the fall of this government and strengthening Hezbollah and bring about another pro-Syrian government," one senior official told CNN. (Posted 8:15 p.m.)

U.S. envoy: No progress in North Korea talks

BEIJING (CNN) -- The U.S. envoy to talks aimed at getting North Korea to halt its nuclear program said Thursday there has been no progress since Pyongyang's round of missile tests last week.

Although Chinese diplomats have been working hard to convince the North Koreans to return to a moratorium on ballistic missile tests, "they have no positive news whatsoever," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said in an exclusive interview on CNN's "The Situation Room."

Hill returned to the region last week after the north fired off a half-dozen short-range missiles and unsuccessfully tested a rocket some analysts say could hit the western United States. Talks aimed at convicting North Korea to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons have stalled since November. (Posted 8:10 p.m.)

Israel hits Palestinian Foreign Ministry in Gaza

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- An Israeli airstrike hit the Palestinian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Gaza City early Thursday, destroying the fourth and fifth floors of the building, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed that Israeli aircraft targeted the foreign ministry with a missile. The attacks were part of an ongoing Israeli campaign targeting Palestinian militants in Gaza, to recover a kidnapped Israeli soldier and stop militants from firing rockets into Israel.

Palestinian sources said at least 19 people were killed Wednesday, including a Hamas militant and his family. The military wing of Hamas said it fired 10 Qassam rockets from Gaza into southern Israel Wednesday, but the Israeli military said none of the missiles caused injuries. (Posted 7:15 p.m.)

Senate leaders, Gulf Coast senators strike oil-drilling deal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico estimated to contain more than 1 billion barrels of oil and 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be opened to offshore exploration for the first time, under a deal announced Wednesday between Senate Republican leaders and a bipartisan group of senators from the region.

To sweeten the deal, reached after months of negotiation, GOP leaders also agreed to give Gulf Shore states nearly 40 percent of the royalties from oil and gas exploration off their coasts, which could raise billions of dollars for Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi.

Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who along with much of Florida's congressional delegation has been fighting opening the eastern Gulf to oil and gas exploration, agreed to go along with exploration in a part of the eastern Gulf known as Lease-Sale Area 181, located more than 100 miles off the panhandle of Florida, in return for maintaining a 125-mile no-drilling buffer along the state's Gulf Coast until 2022. (Posted 5:43 p.m.)

Lebanon recalls ambassador to Washington for 'irresponsible' remarks

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Lebanon has recalled its ambassador to the United States after "irresponsible" public remarks as Israel battled Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said Wednesday.

Hamadeh did not disclose what remarks prompted the recall of Ambassador Farid Abboud. But the move followed the ambassador's statement to CNN that Israel should release Lebanese prisoners it holds in exchange for two Israeli soldiers seized by Hezbollah.

"We have our prisoners. They have prisoners," Abboud said. "An exchange would be appropriate, and I think it will resolve the problem."

Lebanon's Council of Ministers said Wednesday that the government had no advance knowledge of the Hezbollah raid that netted the soldiers and "disavows" the action, according to a senior Lebanese diplomat.

The Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah holds seats in Lebanon's government and is a significant player in Lebanon's fractious politics, but is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.

Israeli Cabinet authorizes 'severe' response to soldiers' kidnappings

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's Cabinet has authorized a "severe and harsh" response to the kidnapping of two soldiers by Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas and says Lebanon's government is responsible for their safe release, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said late Wednesday.

Olmert's ministers met in a special session to discuss the situation in Lebanon, where Israeli artillery and airstrikes pounded Hezbollah installations throughout the day. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in the initial cross-border raid that led to the soldiers' abductions, and five more died in fighting in southern Lebanon after Hezbollah's cross-border raid.

A government official told CNN that Israel would take gradual steps to prevent the escalation in fighting and to bring about the release of the soldiers, and it would pressure the Lebanese government to push Hezbollah back from the Lebanon's border with Israel.

Hezbollah, an Islamic militia backed by Syria and Iran, is part of Lebanon's government, and Israeli leaders have decided that Lebanon "bears full responsibility" for the kidnappings, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said. (Posted 4:45 p.m.)

Watchdog says Homeland Security target database unacceptable

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A report released Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general says the department's database of potential terror targets is too flawed to be used as a guide for the allocation of federal security funding.

Calling many of the target listings "quirky" and "out-of-place," Inspector General Richard Skinner said the National Asset Database, which is an inventory of "critical infrastructure and key resources" in the country, is "not yet comprehensive enough to support the management and resource allocation decision-making envisioned by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan."

The database of 77,069 targets, or "assets," names specific sites such as the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawsonville, Ga., as well as non-specific entities, including one "Beach at End of (a) Street," as being potentially vulnerable.

A DHS representative told CNN the purpose of the list has been misinterpreted. "The major point to get across is that this database is not a list of critical infrastructure across the United States," said DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen. "The states provided us with a list of assets in their area -- assets the states believe are critical." --From CNN's By Stacey Francisco (Posted 4:08 p.m.)

Saddam Hussein, co-defendants, stage another hunger strike

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and three of his co-defendants are staging a hunger strike to protest their treatment by the court and what they say is poor security for their defense lawyers, according to the U.S military.

The former Iraqi leader has refused all meals since Friday night, although he is drinking coffee with sugar and water with nutrients, said Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry, a U.S. military spokesman.

This is at least the third time Hussein and other defendants have gone on a hunger strike since their trial began last October. (Posted 3:41 p.m.)

Dry, hot, windy weather hampering efforts to fight wildfire

YUCCA VALLEY, Calif. (CNN) -- Low humidity, heat and wind were hampering firefighters' efforts Wednesday to contain a raging wildfire that has forced at least 1,000 people to flee.

As of Wednesday morning, the Sawtooth Complex Fire had burned about 26,000 acres but was zero percent contained, officials said. The flames had destroyed 30 structures and were threatening 1,500 more, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Marc DeRosier. About 300 residences had been evacuated because of the fire, located about 120 miles east of San Bernardino.

Eight firefighters had sustained minor injuries, said Tracey Martinez, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department. DeRosier said earlier two civilians had been hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation.

Among the areas affected by the fire was Pioneertown, where several movie and television Westerns were shot. The town, built in 1946, remained a popular tourist spot. Though 30 structures were lost in and around Pioneertown, Martinez said, firefighters were able to save some historical landmarks and homes, including a well-known restaurant and some movie sets.

The temperature as of noon Wednesday hovered near 100 degrees. However, winds had diminished compared with Tuesday and were at about 20 mph, firefighters said. (Posted 3:18 p.m.)

Skakel attorneys ask Supreme Court to overturn murder conviction

(CNN) -- Attorneys for Michael Skakel, convicted in 2002 of murdering his teenage neighbor three decades earlier, filed an appeal Wednesday with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the verdict.

The Connecticut Supreme Court in January denied Skakel's appeal of his conviction. He is serving a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

Skakel's attorneys said in court papers obtained by CNN that their client was denied due process when Connecticut authorities decided in 2000 to charge him with 15-year-old Martha Moxley's murder.

Moxley was found bludgeoned to death outside her home on Oct. 31, 1975, after a night of partying with Skakel, his brother Tommy, and other teenagers in the tony Greenwich neighborhood Belle Haven. (Posted 3:05 p.m.)

'P5 plus 1' to send Iran back to U.N. Security Council over nuclear issue

PARIS (CNN) -- The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council will send Iran back before the council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program because Tehran has shown no willingness to negotiate on the issue, French Foreign Minister Phillippe Douste-Blazy said Wednesday.

"The Iranians have given no indication at all that they are ready to engage seriously on the substance of our proposals. Iran has failed to take the steps needed to allow negotiations to begin, specifically the suspension of all enrichment-related activities, as required by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)," Douste-Blazy said in a written statement. "We express profound disappointment over this situation.

"In this context, we have no choice but to return to the United Nations Security Council and take forward the process that was suspended two months ago."

Douste-Blazy's remarks came after he met in Paris with the foreign ministers of China, Russia, Britain, the United States -- the five permanent Security Council members -- and Germany, the group known as "P5 plus one." The High Representative of the European Union was also present. (Posted 2:56 p.m.)

FDA approves first once-daily HIV combo pill

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The FDA Wednesday approved the first once-daily combo pill for treatment of HIV infection, according to the drug's producers, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences.

Atripla, the HIV treatment, is a combination of Bristol-Myers' Sustiva and Gilead's Truvada. Truvada is a combination of two other Gilead drugs: Viread and Emtriva. (Posted 2:49 p.m.)

China, Russia offer alternate resolution on North Korea

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- China and Russia have proposed their own resolution regarding North Korea's latest missile tests as a counter to a draft Japanese resolution calling for sanctions against Pyongyang for launching several missiles last week, diplomats said Wednesday.

The Chinese and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations announced the new draft resolution, saying it's a chance to maintain peace and security and offer a unified message from the U.N. Security Council on Pyongyang's actions.

The draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by CNN, contains language that is milder than the Japanese draft resolution offered last week.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters his government had political problems with the Japanese version, which called for sanctions against North Korea if it didn't meet certain demands.

Similarly, Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said some council members believe the Chinese-Russian proposal "shows very serious gaps on very important issues" and "it is going to be very difficult for us to accept it as it is." (Posted 2:44 p.m.)

New emergency alert system would send messages to computers, cell phones

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNN) -- A demonstration of emergency alert systems Wednesday showed how messages warning of a national crisis could one day be sent to the cell phones and computers of the general public.

A test message sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency was relayed through a public television satellite and out to a computer, as well as to cell phones of people participating in the demonstration.

The general public shouldn't expect emergency text messages from the government any time soon, however. Though the technology has made it through a one-year pilot phase, putting it into effect will require Congress to pass new legislation, and for a maze of Federal Communications Commission laws to be debated and negotiated by private-sector media distributors. --From CNN's Justine Redman (Posted 2:39 p.m.)

European Commission fines Microsoft $357 million

(CNN) -- Microsoft was fined $357 million by the European Commission on Wednesday for failure to comply with antitrust sanctions, according to statements released by Microsoft and the EC.

An EC decision in 2004 required the company to supply its competitors with the software code used to map the links between Microsoft programs and other operating systems.

The software giant could be fined an additional $3.8 million per day of continued non-compliance, according to the EC.

The March 2004 decision at issue ordered Microsoft to reveal how Microsoft programs, like Windows, can be linked electronically to the software products of other companies, and provide the information in a "complete and accurate" manner to the EC. --From CNN's Katy Byron (Posted 2:26 p.m.)

Rumsfeld: Development of Iraqi security forces 'uneven'

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday said the development of Iraqi security forces has been "uneven," with army forces farther along than police forces.

He said while the training and equipping "is going along very well for the combat and lead forces of the Iraqi security forces, skills such as "logistics and intelligence and the other enablers -- the aviation enablers and the like -- that's far behind."

The defense secretary, visiting Baghdad, made his comments in a question-and-answer session before U.S. troops at the Balad air base.

His comments provide perspective on the strides needed for Iraqi forces to take over security of the country from U.S.-led troops. (Posted 1:47 p.m.)

Child among 2 killed in Afghan suicide bombings

(CNN) -- A 7-year-old boy was one of two people killed in two suicide bombings in Afghanistan, the Combined Forces Command said.

The boy was killed Wednesday when "a suicide car bomber targeted a Coalition vehicle in the Khost-Matun district of Khost province," the command said in a written statement.

The blast injured three coalition soldiers and five Afghan civilians.

Another incident occurred in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province.

An attacker wearing a suicide vest "took the life of one Afghan civilian and wounded three others" in an apparent attack targeting a police commander, the statement said. (Posted 1:39 p.m.)

Israeli attacks continue in Gaza; Palestinian sources say at least 19 dead in strikes, 1 accused collaborator killed

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israel continued targeting militants in Gaza Wednesday, with reports of at least 19 killed, including a Hamas militant and his family.

The attacks came as part of an ongoing Israeli operation to recover a kidnapped Israeli soldier and stop militants' rocket shots into Israel.

In the latest attacks, the Israel Defense Forces said it struck a group of armed militants in the area of the former Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom.

There were conflicting reports on the death toll. The IDF said four gunmen were killed, but Palestinian security sources said five Palestinians were killed. The attack occurred around 8 p.m. (1 p.m. ET). (Posted 1:37 p.m.)

Coalition forces detain 4 'terrorists' in raid northwest of Falluja

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four "terrorists" were detained northwest of Falluja on Tuesday by coalition forces, the U.S. military said in a statement released Wednesday.

The statement said a recent raid uncovered information that "enabled security forces to successfully target two members of an al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist cell operating throughout the Falluja area."

Those two and two others were arrested in raids of buildings. (Posted 1:35 p.m.)

Palestinian FM says Israel needs to make 'courageous decision'

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Hamas member and Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar said Wednesday Israel needs to make a "courageous decision" to release prisoners.

With the Hezbollah capture of two Israeli soldiers Wednesday, it has now joined Hamas in demanding a prisoner exchange.

Asked about the Hezbollah demands, Zahar said, "I think that strengthens the stand of the Palestinian people, and increases the hope of the Palestinian people to release, because instead of speaking about one (soldier) they are speaking about more than one."

Zahar said, "It's in the hand of Israel now. ... We are in need for a courageous decision from the Israeli side: I am going to release the people who are suffering because of spending more than 25 years; we are going to release the children; we are going to release the females -- that will be a very wise political solution." (Posted 1:05 p.m.)

Top aide to Tony Blair arrested in fund-raising scandal

(CNN) -- Lord Michael Levy, a top aide and close friend to Prime Minister Tony Blair, was arrested Wednesday in connection with a political fund-raising scandal in England.

The investigation that led to his arrest began in March, when police began looking into allegations that donors or lenders to Blair's Labour Party had been offered honors such as knighthoods and peerages in exchange for their financial support.

Levy, 61, is the chief fund-raiser for Labour and has served as an envoy to the Middle East.

"He was arrested in connection with alleged offenses under the 'Honors (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000,'" police said in a written statement. He was released on bail.

In a written statement, a spokesman for Levy said he "has made it clear that he is ready at all times to co-operate with the police investigation." (Posted 12:58 p.m.)

China, Russia to offer alternate resolution on North Korea

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- China and Russia will offer their own resolution regarding North Korea's latest missile tests as a counter to a draft Japanese resolution calling for sanctions against Pyongyang for launching several missiles last week, diplomats said Wednesday.

The Chinese and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations announced the new resolution.

For the past week, China insisted that the U.N. Security Council only issue a statement on the North Korean issue and recommended that the Japanese draft be revised.

"If adopted, it will intensify contradictions and increase tension," said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu on Tuesday. "It will harm peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asian region and harm efforts to resume six-party talks as well as lead to the U.N. Security Council splitting." (Posted 12:44 p.m.)

Rice critical of Hezbollah capture of Israeli soldiers, says Syria has 'special responsibility' for positive outcome

PARIS (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemned Wednesday the capture of two Israeli soldiers by the radical Lebanese group Hezbollah.

"Hezbollah's action undermines regional stability and goes against the interests of both the Israeli and Lebanese people," Rice said in a statement issued in Paris, where she is attending meetings.

She singled out Syria, which she said has a "special responsibility to use its influence to support a positive outcome."

Although Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said his country holds the Lebanese government responsible, State Department officials said the United States recognizes that there is not much the Lebanese government can or will do against Hezbollah. (Posted 12:18 p.m.)

Rumsfeld: 'Political progress is critical to success on the security side'

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, paying a visit to volatile Baghdad -- stressed the importance of Iraq's new national reconciliation initiative, saying that establishing stability and peace in Iraq is not just a military task, it's a political imperative as well.

"Political progress is critical to success on the security side," said Rumsfeld, who spoke at a press conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart, Defense Minister Abdel Qader Jassim.

Rumsfeld emphasized this theme during his Wednesday trip to Iraq, where he visited the air base in Balad and Iraqi and U.S. officials in Baghdad.

He met with troops, and U.S. and Iraqi military and political officials, including Gen. George Casey, the top-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. (Posted 12:07 p.m.)

Hezbollah leader says 'direct negotiations' on prisoner swap only way to win freedom of abducted soldiers

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah called Wednesday for "direct negotiations" aimed at freeing prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for the two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah.

The Israel Defense Forces said the two soldiers were abducted Wednesday morning when Hezbollah fighters launched an attack into northern Israel. Three other Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack.

The abduction, Nasrallah told a news conference, is "our natural, only and logical right."

"We want our prisoners released," he said, and asserted that the abduction had focused the international community on the plight of prisoners -- both Hezbollah members and Palestinians -- in Israeli jails.

Nasrallah said that an Israeli military operation "will not accomplish the return of the Israeli soldiers" and that "direct negotiations" are the only way to win their return.

Nasrallah said the two soldiers had been taken to "a faraway place." (Posted 11:08 a.m.)

Israeli military moves into southern Lebanon after Hezbollah kills 3 Israeli troops, abducts 2 others; Olmert blames Lebanese government

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel opened a second front in its war on militants Wednesday after Hezbollah guerrillas killed three Israeli troops and kidnapped two others.

Hezbollah, in a statement broadcast on the Al Manar television station, demanded a prisoner exchange.

Israel responded by launching air strikes and sending troops and tanks into southern Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the attack and abductions were an "act of war" and blamed the Lebanese government, which he said would be held responsible.

Hezbollah also claimed it had destroyed an Israeli tank crossing into southern Lebanon. The fate of the tank crew was not known.

The valleys along the Israeli-Lebanese border thundered with artillery fire and clouds of blue-gray smoke could be seen rising above Lebanese positions. (Posted 10:50 a.m.)

Timers found hidden in pencils as investigation widens into deadly Mumbai blasts

MUMBAI (CNN) -- Timers hidden in pencils have been discovered in at least three of the seven blast sites in the deadly bombings aboard crowded commuter trains in India's financial capital that killed 185 people, police said Wednesday.

The timers are believed to have detonated bombs made of RDX, one of the most powerful kinds of military explosives, authorities told CNN's sister network, CNN-IBN.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, which came in a span of 11 minutes during Tuesday evening's rush hour, when trains were jam-packed with commuters making their way home.

The Western Railway system carries more than 4.5 million passengers a day in Mumbai. Maharashtra state's police chief said more than 700 people were hurt, and hospitals continued appeals for blood donors.

Relatives and friends searched desperately for missing loved ones, posting messages at train stations and in the media as officials worked to identify the dead and injured. Local train service resumed in most areas of Mumbai on Wednesday but long-distance trains were not running. (Posted 9:49 a.m.)

Israeli attacks continue in Gaza; Palestinian sources say 14 dead in strikes, 1 accused collaborator killed

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israel continued targeting militants in Gaza Wednesday, and Palestinian sources reported at least 14 killed, including a Hamas militant and his family, in four attacks.

The attacks came as part of an ongoing Israeli operation to recover a kidnapped Israeli soldier and stop militants' rocket shots into Israel. Palestinian security sources tell CNN an Israeli helicopter struck a police station in Garara in central Gaza Wednesday afternoon, killing one police officer and wounding three people. The strike occurred around 3 p.m. (9 a.m. ET).

In addition, Fatah sources tell CNN a Palestinian accused of being a collaborator with Israel was executed by Palestinians in Khan Younis. Around 12:30 p.m. (5:30 a.m ET), an Israeli rocket hit a car in central Gaza, killing at least two people, Palestinian security sources said. The strike happened around in Deir al-Balah, the sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed it carried out an aerial attack on a group of armed gunmen in central Gaza at that time, but it was not clear that they were in a vehicle. The IDF could not confirm the status of the gunmen targeted in the airstrike.

Hours earlier, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City killed a Hamas official, his wife and seven children, according to Hamas and Palestinian medical sources. Hamas identified Nabil Abu Salmiya as a mid-level leader, who was also a professor at the Islamic University. Hamas' military wing Izzedine al Qassam Brigade denied an Israeli military report that the airstrike injured its leader, Mohammed Deif, who is at the top of Israel's most-wanted list. The militant group is threatening revenge on Israeli civilians for the strike, Palestinian security sources said. (Posted 9:16 a.m.)

20 found dead after kidnapping in Iraq's Diyala province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Twenty people were found dead Wednesday after armed gunmen in Diyala province kidnapped 24 people, according to an official from the Diyala Joint Coordination Center.

The victims were kidnapped from a bus station, and included both riders and bus drivers.

The kidnapping took place at 8 a.m. in Muqtadya -- a mixed city that is northeast of the provincial capital of Baquba. (Posted 8:04 a.m.)

Al-Maliki, Iraqi government deal with violence

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday received tough questions from Iraqi parliamentarians over the volatile environment in Baghdad, where more than 100 people have died in violence since the weekend despite a national reconciliation plan and a highly touted security crackdown in the capital.

"We are determined to make the national reconciliation plan succeed," al-Maliki said, "because it is the last resort."

Al-Maliki, speaking to lawmakers, responded to rumors that parts of Baghdad are about to fall. He denied that, saying security forces are in control in all parts of Iraq.

He condemned the wave of violence and said an important component in the fight is developing proper intelligence to counter the attackers. He also praised the work and bravery of the security forces and addressed the need to clamp down on sectarianism. Militias are one of the main government concerns. (Posted 8:03 a.m.)

9 dead after bombs explode in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Nine Iraqis were killed in two attacks in Baghdad.

Seven Iraqis died and 20 were wounded when a suicide bomber walked into a restaurant in a southern Baghdad neighborhood Wednesday and detonated his bomb, Iraqi emergency police said.

Less than an hour earlier a car bomb targeting Iraqi civilians exploded in central Baghdad, killing two and wounding two at 11 a.m., Iraqi emergency police said.

The violence comes amid an unannounced visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. (Posted 6:32 a.m.)

Southern California fire burns 30,000 acres

YUCCA VALLEY, Calif. (CNN) -- Black smoke billowed across Yucca Valley in southern California as a brush fire consumed about 30,000 acres of land and caused 200 residents to flee their homes Wednesday, an official with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Seven firefighters and two civilians have been hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation in the Sawtooth Complex Fire, located about 120 miles east of San Bernardino, said Capt. Marc DeRosier, an official with the CDF.

The fire, burning since Sunday, is moving northwest towards the San Bernardino National Forest, DeRosier said. Firefighters have not been able to contain any of the blaze, and DeRosier could not estimate when they would. (Posted 6:28 a.m.)

South, North Korea meet for first time since missile tests

SEOUL (CNN) -- South Korea and North Korea Wednesday held their first ministerial meeting since Pyongyang test-fired missiles last week.

South Korea urged Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks and resolve the stand-off over its weapons program through peaceful means, according to a statement on the South Korean Unification Ministry's Web site.

When asked about its recent missile tests, North Korea referred the South Korean delegation to a previous statement from Pyongyang that said it has the right to launch such tests. (Posted 6:27 a.m.)

Rumsfeld arrives in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Iraq Wednesday morning on an unannounced visit to meet with commander of U.S. forces in Iraq Gen. George Casey and U.S. troops.

His plane landed in Balad, a major air force base about 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Rumsfeld and Casey will attend a 45-minute question and answer session with U.S. troops later in the day.

Rumsfeld's last unannounced visit to Iraq was on April 26, with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to meet with Nuri al-Maliki, who had just been designated as Iraq's new prime minister. (posted 2:25 a.m.)

Six New Jersey officers indicted on drug charges

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A Passaic County grand jury on Tuesday indicted six law enforcement officers who are accused of protecting targets of a government drug probe in return for drugs.

"Targets of a narcotics investigation being conducted by the Passaic County Narcotics Task Force were tipped off in advance of the execution of search and arrest warrants," said Jay McCann, the county's chief assistant prosecutor.

The officers were charged with conspiracy to protect the targets of a narcotics investigation and conspiracy to commit misconduct in office in violation of the federal Wiretap Act.

Five have been suspended without pay; the sixth officer is retired. No arraignment date has been set. (posted 11:45 p.m.)

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