Armed Hamas police forced their way into a warehouse in Gaza City and seized thousands of blankets and food parcels, a UN aid official said Wednesday. The items had been ready for distribution to families displaced by Israel's offensive in Gaza. A Hamas spokesman did not deny the seizure but accused the UN of giving the aid to opponents of its rule in Gaza.

Parliament in Zimbabwe put off until next week the debate on authorizing formation of a unity government. The move adds more delay to establishing the post of prime minister, which would be filled by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Negotiations between him and President Robert Mugabe on sharing power remain stalled more than four months after they agreed to the unity government. The US and Britain both have said any aid to Zimbabwe would be conditional on evidence of "true power-sharing."

Release of a cargo ship seized last September by Somali pirates was expected within hours Wednesday, reports said. The vessel and its 20-man crew were ferrying Russian-built tanks and other weapons allegedly to South Sudan. It was among the first high-profile ships to be hijacked. Payment of a $3.2 million ransom could not be confirmed.

Jacob Zuma, considered almost certain to win South Africa's presidential election, will not be due in court on corruption charges until well after the voting, a judge said Wednesday. Delaying criminal proceedings until Aug. 25 means that he could go on trial as a sitting chief executive. Zuma, the leader of the ruling African National Congress and former deputy president, has sought dismissal of the charges as well as a permanent stay of prosecution. The election is expected in April.

Supporters of Madagascar's opposition leader were blocking access to City Hall in the capital after the national government relieved him of his duties as mayor late Tuesday. Andry Rajoelina, who has organized mass demonstrations against President Marc Ravalomanana, was to be replaced by another city official whom the protesters sought to keep from reporting to work. Analysts said Rajoelina, who vowed to set up a transitional government unless Ravalomanana resigns, may have overplayed his hand.

A day after Russia offered to reward Kyrgyzstan for closing a key US air base on its soil, the latter sent a decree to Parliament setting the shutdown in motion. Approval is considered a formality, which would give US personnel six months to vacate the base, a vital transshipment point for troops and supplies en route to Afghanistan. US officials said discussions on the matter with the Kyrgyz government were ongoing and "some mutually beneficial outcome" was hoped for.

In still more drug-related violence, a retired Army general and two aides were found murdered execution-style on the outskirts of CancĂșn, Mexico. Gen. Mario Enrique Tello had been a security consultant to the resort city; the aides were among its mayor's protection detail, reports said. Their deaths came on top of 14 others around Mexico between Sunday night and midafternoon Tuesday, among them three police officers.

Panasonic Corp., the Japanese electronics giant, must close 27 assembly plants and lay off 15,000 employees, senior executives announced. The company, the world leader in making plasma TVs, posted its first annual operating loss in six years and expects "a serious sales decline to continue," the executives said. Panasonic's chief competitors, NEC, Hitachi, and Sony, all have announced at least 7,000 layoffs in recent days.

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