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Monday, July 24

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.

7 die in Israeli airstrike, Lebanese security sources say; Israel, Hezbollah battle in southern Lebanon

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Pitched battles marked the end of the second week of the raging conflict between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon.

On Tuesday morning, Lebanese security sources said an overnight Israeli airstrike hit a house in the village of Nabatiye, killing seven people.

While not responding directly to the claim, Israel Defense Forces said its military operations have hit dozens of Hezbollah militants during ongoing fighting in Bint Jbeil. The fighting took place in an area north of Maroun Al-Ras and involved aerial and ground forces.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and about 20 were wounded there on Monday, IDF said. (posted 1:40 a.m.)

Lebanese security sources: 7 die after Israeli airstrike hits house

BEIRUT (CNN) -- An Israeli airstrike hit a house in southern Lebanon overnight, killing seven people in the village of Nabatiye, Lebanese security sources said Tuesday. (posted 1 a.m.)

Israel targets Hezbollah stronghold

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel Defense Forces Tuesday said military operations have hit dozens of Hezbollah militants during ongoing fighting in Bint Jbeil.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed Monday in firefights near the village in southern Lebanon. (posted 12:35 a.m.)

After Beirut visit, Rice in Israel for talks with Olmert

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- After making a dramatic visit to Beirut Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, trying to broker a plan to end two weeks of violence that has left more than 400 people dead on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border.

However, the framework Rice brought with her from Washington -- combining a cease-fire with disarmament of Hezbollah guerrillas and deployment of an international security force in southern Lebanon -- received a cool reception in Beirut, where government officials have been pleading with the United States to pressure Israel for an immediate cease-fire.

U.S. officials say conditions are not yet ripe for a cease-fire, and they expect Israeli military operations to continue for another week, or possibly even longer. (Posted 7:50 p.m.)

U.S. cracking down on Iraq 'death squads'

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. commanders in Baghdad are turning their attention to cracking down on Iraqi "death squads" blamed for hundreds of killings in the Iraqi capital in recent months, a military spokesman said Monday.

With Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki headed to Washington for talks with President Bush on Tuesday, the White House acknowledged that Americans have "real work ahead" to secure Baghdad, which fell to U.S. troops in April 2003.

The latest push is "a top priority" of Gen. George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters.

"It makes absolutely no difference what their religious sect is, what organizations they may claim to belong to," Caldwell said. "All we care about are those -- when we talk about death squads -- that are out conducting murders and assassinations." (Posted 5:40 p.m.)

2 federal prison guards indicted

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two Federal Bureau of Prisons guards in Illinois have been indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations of severely beating an inmate and lying to cover up the alleged crime.

The Justice Department Monday announced the indictment of corrections officers Daniel Gordon and Eric Newsome at the Greenville Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male inmates 40 miles east of St. Louis. (Posted 5:34 p.m.)

GOP senators seek emergency immigration spending measure

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Arguing it is the "last best hope" to get immigration reform through the Congress this year, two key Republican senators Monday urged lawmakers to approve $3.67 billion in emergency spending to fund border security programs and the enforcement of other immigration laws.

Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and John Kyl of Arizona wrote a letter to President Bush urging him to ask Congress for an emergency supplemental spending bill to prove Washington is committed to implementing and paying for the security portion of the immigration reform debate.

Cornyn said the public is "profoundly skeptical" at this point and approving the funds would go a long way to "re-energizing" stalled congressional negotiations.

The money would be used to pay for items already approved by Congress but not fully funded. They include an increase in detention beds, an increase in border patrol agents and stepped up work site enforcement. --From CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett (Posted 5:18 p.m.)

Senate set to pass measure blocking transportation of minors across state lines for abortions

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate is expected to pass a bill Tuesday making it illegal to take a minor to another state to get an abortion in order to dodge state laws requiring parental notification or consent, Senate Republican and Democratic aides said Monday.

A similar measure passed last year in the House, meaning the legislation is likely to be enacted this year.

The measure is another in a series of narrowly targeted bills passed by the GOP-controlled Congress in recent years, aimed at curbing abortions. Other measures banned a particular abortion procedure and granted legal rights to fetuses.

Proponents of the latest measure argue the bill is aimed at protecting young women from abusive men who drag them across state lines for secret abortions. Opponents say victims of incest and abusive parents will be trapped into carrying unwanted pregnancies. --From CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett (Posted 4:48 p.m.)

FBI investigating suspicious letters sent to NAACP, FBI offices

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI is investigating several suspicious letters and envelopes containing white powder sent last week to local NAACP offices and an FBI field office and which appear to be related to each other, FBI officials said Monday.

All of the powder has been found to be non-threatening, authorities said.

The letters were sent to NAACP offices in Baltimore and New York, while three envelopes, some containing letters, were mailed to the FBI office in Norfolk, Virginia.

Officials indicated there was some type of threat contained in the communications but said they could not elaborate.

The Baltimore letter, opened late Friday afternoon, contained a white powder that tests later showed was boric acid and therefore not a health threat, Baltimore FBI spokeswoman Michelle Crnokovich said. --From CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn (Posted 4:42 p.m.)

FEMA changes distribution of emergency money, housing aid, debris removal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saying it wants to remain a "compassionate" agency but avoid the waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiencies that marred its response to Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday announced major changes to the way it will distribute emergency funds, housing assistance and cleanup help after the nation's next major catastrophe.

Key among the changes:

-- FEMA will give displaced families only $500 in emergency aid after major disasters, down from the $2,000 per household given to victims of Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

-- It will begin registering evacuees before storms make landfall, giving the agency a head start in distributing money and finding temporary residences for people if their homes are badly damaged. And it won't move them from emergency shelters to apartments and other temporary homes until after verifying their identities.

-- It will speed up phone-in registrations by pressing into service 3,000 Internal Revenue Service call-takers. The agency also is testing five mobile registration intake centers and hand-held registration devices it can deploy into disaster zones.

-- And the agency will ask state and local governments to sign contracts with local companies before storms for removal of any debris in the event of a disaster. --From CNN Homeland Security Producer Mike M. Ahlers (Posted 2:49 p.m.)

U.S. announces 'significant commitment' to Lebanon aid

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has authorized the delivery of U.S. humanitarian aid to Lebanon as part of a "significant U.S. commitment" to relief efforts, the White House announced Monday.

David Welch, a top Mideast aide traveling with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told reporters the United States has pledged $30 million for humanitarian aid to Lebanon, and will supply at once 100,000 medical kits, 20,000 blankets and 2,000 rolls of plastic sheeting.

"We are firmly in the picture in leading the diplomacy," Welch told reporters aboard Rice's plane shortly before it landed in Tel Aviv.

Deliveries were expected to begin Tuesday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said. Rice will announce further details during her trip to the Middle East, he said. (Posted 2:32 p.m.)

Olmert: 'Model solution' within 'reasonable period of time'

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday Israel's military response to Hezbollah has triggered a process that will soon cause "significant change" in northern Israel.

"The international response and the changes in the Arab world will, I believe, allow us to, within a reasonable timeframe, build a model solution that will significantly weaken and isolate Hezbollah," Olmert told Israeli troops at an air force base. "We will come out of this differently than when we went in."

Olmert's office released a copy of his remarks.

The prime minister said Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah "made a mistake" -- apparently by underestimating Israel's response to continued rocket attacks and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers two week ago. "If he would have thought and would have known that this would be our reaction, he would have responded and acted differently. He has delegitimized himself throughout the entire world." (Posted 2:27 p.m.)

Coast Guard: Ship carrying 4,800 cars in trouble off Alaska

(CNN) -- A ship carrying 22 people and nearly 5,000 cars was taking on water, listing sharply and leaking fuel hundreds of miles off the Alaskan coast, with the nearest vessel nearly a day away, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

The Cougar Ace, a car carrier flagged in Singapore, reported Sunday at 11:09 p.m. (2:09 a.m. Monday ET) that it was listing at an 80-degree angle 500 nautical miles southwest of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, said Petty Officer Eric J. Chandler, from the Coast Guard center in Juneau.

The 654-foot Tokyo-based ship is owned by Matsui OSK Lines and was carrying 4,813 vehicles from Singapore to Vancouver when the problem emerged, Chandler said.

It was not clear whether the ship was sinking. "We don't even know what caused the damage or how much water it is taking on," Chandler said. "I wouldn't want to say they're not in danger, but it's a pretty well controlled situation." (Posted 2:03 p.m.)

3,000 still without electricity in NYC; Con Ed in hot seat

NEW YORK -- Three thousand New Yorkers are still in the dark a week after a power outage left tens of thousands without electricity, and Con Edison, the city's utility provider, is still searching for answers.

Con Edison spokesman Alfonso Quiroz says its top priority is to fully restore power to all residential and commercial customers, and then an investigation will be conducted to find out what went wrong, and why it has taken so long to fix.

The blackout began last Monday when a violent thunderstorms that swept through the area. The borough of Queens was hit especially hard, with an estimated 25,000 customers left powerless, including several terminals at La Guardia airport. --From CNN's Khadia Jonjo and Ellen Rose (Posted 1:59 p.m.)

Israel says its weapons meet international law

TYRE, Lebanon (CNN) -- As battles have raged between Israel and Hezbollah in recent days, many Lebanese casualties have been rushed to hospitals with severe burns. Steadily, more and more people in southern Lebanon have accused Israel of packing its bombs with phosphorus.

Mohammad Khalifeh, Lebanon's health minister, said there are high suspicions Israel is using a new type of weapon, resulting in wounds not seen before in hospitals. He said the weapons may contain phosphorus. "There is no evidence but high clinical suspicions, and this is still under investigation,"

At one hospital in Tyre, Dr. Wahid Najir said he believes the Israeli military has used chemicals to burn those hit. "This is the effect of phosphorus," he said, speaking of a 9-year-old boy with severe wounds to his face. "This is phosphorus of course."

The boy's family was traveling in a vehicle when it was struck.

International rules of war forbid the use of weapons that cause indiscriminate suffering, but make no specific reference to phosphorus. --From CNN's Karl Penhaul (Posted 1:53 p.m.)

Annan: Syria and Iran have pledged to cooperate

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday the heads of state of Iran and Syria have pledged their cooperation toward ending the Mideast conflict.

"I did speak to them about the situation in the region, and the fact that we are going to need their cooperation, and both have indicated that they will cooperate," Annan told reporters prior to departing for Rome, where he was to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mideast leaders to devise a plan to install a multinational force in southern Lebanon.

"What is important is that, after Rome, depending on the package that emerges, I think both countries will have to be engaged," Annan said.

The secretary-general said he hopes concrete measures "to do something about the conflict" will emerge from the meeting. Who will participate in the force remains unclear, with proposals already put forth from the Egyptians and the Americans, he said.

Some countries believe the force should be mandated by the United Nations, but not operated by the world body, an option Annan said he is open to. (Posted 1:01 p.m.)

Israeli copter down near Lebanese border, 2 pilots dead

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- An Israeli Apache attack helicopter crashed on the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon, near where Israeli troops were battling Hezbollah militants, killing the two pilots on board Monday, according to an Israel Defense Force spokesman.

The IDF said it was an accident -- not a shootdown.

Two ambulances were almost immediately at the crash site near the the town of Rihaniya, south of the Israeli border town of Avivim, CNN Correspondent Paula Newton reported from the scene.

Israeli military sources said there was "very fierce fighting" in the area. (Posted 12:41 p.m.)

Palestinian sources: 4 killed by Israeli artillery attacks in northern Gaza

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Four Palestinians died Monday as Israeli artillery shells hit residential areas in northern Gaza, Palestinian medical sources said.

The Palestinian sources said an artillery shell hit an apartment building west of Beit Hanoun, killing three people. The Israeli army said it was checking the report.

Other Palestinian medical sources said a 6-year-old girl was killed and two civilians were wounded in Israeli artillery shelling that hit houses in the town of Beit Lahiya.

An Israel Defense Force spokesman said Israeli tanks fired artillery in response to rockets launched by Palestinian militants into Israel from northern Gaza. The spokesman said the militants had fired 20 Qassams over the previous 48 hours, including some rockets launched from the area west of Beit Lahiya. (Posted 12:23 p.m.)

Roadside bombs kill 1, wound 6; police find 3 tortured bodies

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A string of three roadside-bomb attacks in Baghdad Monday morning killed one person and wounded six, including two police and two Iraqi soldiers, Iraq Emergency Police said.

Police also recovered three bodies across the Iraqi capital. All had been shot in the head and showed signs of torture.

Later, four mortars exploded in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, wounding eight civilians, police said.

Also, three Sunni Arabs were gunned down by armed men in Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad, police said. (Posted 12:19 p.m.)

Rice makes Beirut first stop of Mideast tour

BEIRUT (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began her visit Monday to the Middle East in Beirut, where she met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora concerning the crisis, praising him for his courage and steadfastness in the face of war before meeting with Nabih Berry, the speaker of Lebanon's parliament, and then flying to Israel.

"I am obviously here because I am deeply concerned about the Lebanese people and what they are enduring," she told a pool reporter in Beirut. "We are talking about the humanitarian situation and we are also talking about a durable way to end the violence. President Bush wanted this to be my first stop here in Lebanon to express our desire to urgently find conditions in which we can end the violence and make things better for the Lebanese people."

Outside Siniora's office, dozens of demonstrators protested U.S. support for the Israeli military action.

"4 Million Lebanese Hostages," said one poster. Another blared: "MASSACRE."

Yet another: "1,000 Injured -- American Tax Dollars at Work." (Posted 11:57 a.m.)

IDF: Ground troops, airstrikes kill Hezbollah fighters at two Katyusha launch sites

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli troops killed "a number of Hezbollah fighters" and wounded dozens Monday during ground fighting at a Katyusha rocket launch site around the village of Bint Jebeil in southern Lebanon, the Israel Defense Force said.

About 20 Israeli soldiers were wounded in the fighting, the IDF said.

The IDF also said Israeli missiles, launched from the air, destroyed a building east of the Lebanese city of Sidon used by Hezbollah to launch Katyusha rockets into northern Israel Monday afternoon.

A missile also destroyed a car filled with Hezbollah militants who were fleeing that site after they launched Katyusha rockets, the IDF said. (Posted 11:44 a.m.)

Blair: One-sided cease-fire would produce nothing

LONDON (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair resisted pressure to call on Israel for an immediate cease-fire Monday, saying the only solution is to get Hezbollah to halt its attacks as well.

"What is happening in Lebanon is, of course, a catastrophe," Blair told reporters at a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime MInister Nuri al-Maliki.

"But it has to stop on both sides. And it's not going to stop on both sides unless a plan is in place to make it stop. And that's what we're working on."

Blair denied suggestions he supports giving Israel time to achieve key military objectives against the militant group Hezbollah, insisting he and others are working "urgently" to achieve a solution. (Posted 11:28 a.m.)

Red Cross: Israeli airstrike hit 'well-marked' ambulance near Tyre

TYRE, Lebanon (CNN) -- An Israeli missile hit two Red Cross ambulances parked in the southern Lebanese town of Qana, killing one person and seriously wounding two others late Sunday, according to a Red Cross official.

The Red Cross official in Tyre told CNN that the ambulances, clearly marked as Red Cross vehicles, were part of an effort to transport people wounded in the town of Tibneen to hospitals 20 miles to the west in Tyre.

Patients were being moved from one ambulance in Qana -- a town midway between Tibneen and Tyre -- when the missile hit about 11:30 p.m. Sunday, the official said. (Posted 10:37 a.m.)

Hezbollah rockets wound 5 in northern Israel

HAIFA, Israel (CNN) -- About 10 Katyusha rockets launched from southern Lebanon fell onto several cities in northern Israel, including around Haifa, wounding five people Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The latest barrage of Hezbollah rockets landed near and around the northern Israeli cities of Tiberias, Kiryat Shmona, Maalot, Nahariya and north of Haifa.

Two of the five wounded were in Tiberias, the IDF said. (Posted 9:50 a.m.)

Lebanese parliamentary leader: We don't want another war on Lebanon

BRUSSELS (CNN) -- The majority leader of Lebanon's parliament called Monday for a "final solution" to the Mideast crisis that would ensure it not repeat itself.

"What we need is not a half solution. What we need is not a quarter of a solution. What we need is a final solution for this not to happen again. We don't want another war on Lebanon," said Saad Hariri.

"We don't want Lebanon to be used as a territory for other conflicts. We need Lebanon to be a free and sovereign country" not controlled by "insurgents" or "interference in its politics," he said.

Hariri was in Brussels meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Hariri said he came to discuss the importance of a cease-fire and a humanitarian corridor and to push for aid to the region. (Posted 9:04 a.m.)

Kidnapped soldier's brother: 'We are simply in the dark'

HAIFA, Israel (CNN) -- The brother of an Israeli soldier whose abduction helped spark the current Mideast crisis told CNN Monday his family knows nothing about his brother's condition. "We are simply in the dark," said Beni Regev.

Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were kidnapped by Hezbollah militants nearly two weeks ago. That and continued Hezbollah rocket attacks into Israel led to Israel's military actions in south Lebanon.

Although Lebanon's Minister of Foreign Affairs Fawzi Salloukh said Sunday the two soldiers are "in good health and safe," it was unclear whether Salloukh has seen them.

Beni Regev told CNN his brother should be allowed "to see the Red Cross and give us a message or something like that." Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails are allowed to have visits from the Red Cross, he said, calling it a basic of international law. (Posted 8:16 a.m.)

Saddam Hussein's trial resumes while he's in hospital

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The trial of Saddam Hussein and other co-defendants resumed Monday with its 38th session, as the ousted Iraqi dictator was being treated in a hospital for what the chief prosecutor said were the effects of his hunger strike.

Monday's session focused on another defendant, Barzan Ibrahim, Hussein's half-brother and former intelligence chief. (Posted 7:00 a.m.)

Rice arrives in Beirut

BEIRUT (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Beirut Monday afternoon where she was set to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora concerning the Middle East crisis, according to two high-ranking Lebanese officials.

Rice is scheduled to travel to Israel next for meetings with Israeli leaders.

The mission, not officially announced for security reasons, is aimed at assessing the humanitarian situation in the region and paving the way for increased relief aid, a senior U.S. official said.

Rice's visit follows trips by European and U.N. diplomats to the region who supported Lebanon's calls for a cease-fire. The United States has not called for an immediate end to the fighting, arguing that leaving Hezbollah in place on Israel's northern border would only make further conflict inevitable.

Rice said she has been consulting with U.N. and Israeli officials about elements of a cease-fire that would ensure Lebanon controls its country. (Posted 6:26 a.m.)

Suicide attacks wounds 2 coalition soldiers in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- Two coalition soldiers were wounded Monday when their patrol was hit in a suicide vehicle attack in Kandahar province, a statement from the Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center in Kabul said.

The soldiers were being treated at a coalition medical facility, according to the statement, but there was no immediate word on their conditions.

The bombing, carried out by a driver in a van, took place in the province's Daman district and came two days after a pair of attacks in the city of Kandahar killed two Canadian troops and six civilians.

"The Taliban appear to have no objection to callously killing and maiming fellow Afghan men, women and children without regard to the pain and suffering they cause their own countrymen," said coalition spokesman Col. Thomas Collins. (posted 4:50 a.m.)

Roadside bombs kill 1, wound 6; police find 3 tortured bodies

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A string of three roadside-bomb attacks in Baghdad Monday morning killed one person and wounded six others, including two police and two Iraqi soldiers, Iraq Emergency Police said.

Police also recovered three bodies across the Iraqi capital. All had been shot in the head and showed signs of torture. (posted 4:15 a.m.)

Israeli troops, Hezbollah battle in southern Lebanon

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Defense Forces said its troops fought Hezbollah in southern Lebanon Monday in what it called an ongoing operation of pinpoint strikes.

The fighting, involving ground and aeiral forces, took place in the Bint Jubeil area, north of Maroun al-Ras.

The IDF on Saturday called Maroun al-Ras its "first foothold" in southern Lebanon in an effort to create a security buffer.

According to IDF, several Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded, but would not elaborate.

IDF also said one Katyusha rocket was fired into eastern Galilee Monday. (posted 4 a.m.)

IDF: Israel captures Hezbollah guerrillas

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel Defense Forces Monday said its troops had seized two Hezbollah guerrillas during an operation in Maroun al-Ras, a town in southern Lebanon.

The guerrillas were taken into custody on Sunday for "suspected in involvement in terror activities," IDF said, and are being held in Israel. (posted 3:25 a.m.)

Rice en route to Middle East for talks

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- With the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah into its 13th day, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to the Middle East Monday for meetings with Israeli officials only hours after huddling with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister in Washington.

Rice talked with reporters en route to the Middle East, saying the need for a cease-fire is "urgent," but only when the conditions are right.

"We believe that a cease-fire is urgent," Rice said. "It is important, however, to have conditions that will make it sustainable."

In Washington, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Sunday he urged President Bush to call for a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas during a meeting at the White House. (posted 2:20 a.m.)

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