World

Israel's government declared the Gaza Strip an "enemy entity" Wednesday and said it would reduce supplies of electricity and fuel to the Hamas-run territory. No starting date was announced, however. The move, in retaliation for rocket attacks on Israeli targets, was denounced by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as "oppressive." Above, Palestinian militants in Gaza release a statement on Israel to the news media.

A car bomb exploded in a Christian suburb of Beirut Wednesday, killing at least four people and injuring more than a dozen others, among them an anti-Syrian member of parliament. Lebanon has experienced a series of bombings over the past two years, mostly targeting anti-Syrian political figures. The most recent came on June 13 and killed Walid Eido, another legislator.

Reversing course, Turkey's Prime Minister called Wednesday for an end to the ban on wearing head scarves by Muslim female college students. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it deprives some women of a higher education and should be rescinded when the Constitution is rewritten. But the issue is contentious, especially for secularists who prize the separation of religion and state. Erdogan, who is Muslim, previously had kept his intentions about the ban to himself. The ban has been in effect since the early 1980s.

A run by depositors on their savings in Britain's Northern Rock bank appeared to be over Wednesday, but the value of stock in the troubled mortgage lender took a new tumble as other financial institutions sold off shares. Analysts speculated that Northern Rock ultimately will have to be sold for well under its depleted share price, stemming from the subprime mortgage implosion in the US. Its stock had gained 8.2 percent in trading Tuesday but that was down more than half from last Friday's close.

Participation in the nationwide strike called by union leaders in Zimbabwe was low Wednesday. The walkout was intended to protest a freeze by the government on pay increases, but many people said they can't risk losing their jobs in an economy whose inflation rate is 6,600 percent. Also easing pressure on hard-line President Robert Mugabe, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change agreed to legislation that would move up elections for a new parliament by two years. Previously, it had vowed to boycott the voting absent guarantees that it would be free and fair.

More meetings were scheduled between leaders of Nepal's ruling coalition and their former communist partners after the latter refused Wednesday to return to government or call off plans for nationwide protests. The communists quit the coalition 24 hours earlier when the other parties did not meet demands for immediate abolition of the monarchy. The communists ruled out a return to armed conflict but are threatening weeks of protests to derail elections for a new parliament.

Fencing will be installed around more than 300 public schools in southern Thailand, many of which also will be provided with fire-fighting equipment, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont's cabinet decided Tuesday. A spokesman said the moves are aimed at raising morale and providing increased protection against potential attacks by Muslim separatists. Since May, at least nine teachers have been killed and 86 schools – seen as a symbol of the state – have been burned to the ground in attacks blamed on separatists.

Typhoon Wipha made landfall in southeastern China Wednesday, killing one person and disrupting transportation in Shanghai, the nation's financial hub. But it was tracking northwest of the city and was downgraded to a tropical storm. Authorities said property damage was relatively light for a storm that had been projected as the worst to hit the region in a decade. Above, tourists venture out for a look as it buffets Shanghai.

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