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The prospect of Israeli forces reoccupying areas of the Gaza Strip loomed larger Wednesday after Hamas militants fired a rocket into a major city for the first time. No one was hurt when the rocket exploded in Ash-kelon, but the target was the deepest penetration of Israel yet by a Palestinian launch. In retaliation, an Israeli airstrike collapsed the top floors of the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza City, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Cabinet authorized the clearing of a buffer zone inside the strip that would make rocket launchings more difficult. Analysts warned, however, that such a mission could well lead to firefights with militants in some towns.

Terrorists exploded two more bombs in Afghanistan's capital Wednesday, targeting buses carrying government employees to their jobs. One person was killed and 45 others were lightly injured in the blasts, the third and fourth in the past two days. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks Wednesday, stepping up their most intensive campaign of violence since being forced from power in 2001. But in another successful mission by coalition forces conducting Operation Mountain Thrust, ground troops supported by air power killed 35 Taliban in a nighttime attack on a compound in Helmand Province.

A young girl and the owner of a theater in central Somalia were shot to death late Tuesday by Islamist militiamen who demanded that the audience leave a screening of a World Cup soccer game, reports said. They said the militiamen fired into a crowd of young people in the theater who'd been watching a semifinal game between Italy and Germany and objected to being ordered to leave. The Supreme Islamic Courts Council, previously known as the Islamic Courts Union, banned such forms of entertainment after seizing control of Moga-dishu, the capital, last month. It has since been extending its influence to – and imposing strict Islamic sharia law on – other areas of the country.

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A dispute over a set of rocky islands between South Korea and Japan flared up again Wednesday, two months after it appeared to have been defused. With regional attention distracted by the test-launches of North Korean missiles, reports said a South Korean survey ship entered Japanese waters to map the islands, which lie astride rich fishing grounds and are claimed by both nations. The surveyors were intercepted by a Japanese Coast Guard vessel and ultimately set a course for the South Korean port of Busan because of poor weather. But the Ministry of Maritime Affairs said they'd return to the islands once the weather improved. An identical mission at the end of April by Japanese surveyors almost led to an armed confrontation at sea until it was scrapped in 11th-hour negotiations.

In a rare reference to Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi by name, the military junta of Burma (Myanmar) said her release from house arrest would be "a grave danger to the nation." It derided international demands for her freedom as "meaningless" and said ominously that her days were "numbered." She and her National League for Democracy were headed for "a tragic end," a commentary in the state press said. The democracy activist has been confined to her home in the capital, Yangon, for 10 of the past 17 years. In May, the junta announced another one-year extension of her captivity.

Unrelenting heavy rains and resulting landslides were blamed for 20 more deaths Wednesday in eastern India, bringing the national total to more than 250. Meteorologists predicted at least three more days of "heavy to very heavy showers," prompting worry that the monsoon season could come close to equaling last year's, when roughly 1,000 Indians died. The problem was particularly acute in Bombay, the financial capital, where seven drownings were reported Monday and poor drainage was causing flooded roads, disrupting air travel and train service, and keeping schools and businesses closed.

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