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THE MIDEAST IN BRIEF

Refugees without aid flood shelters

BEIRUT -- A flood of refugees is overwhelming shelters in safe areas of Lebanon after Israeli bombing severed the country's ``umbilical cord" for humanitarian assistance, aid groups say. Tens of thousands are trapped without aid, and officials say that the living conditions of those in safe areas are deteriorating rapidly and that an outbreak of disease would spread like wildfire. After a partial pause in bombing last week, Israel has resumed heavy strikes against targets in Lebanon, forcing tens of thousands to join the estimated 900,000 Lebanese displaced by the three-week-old war. Schools, municipal buildings, and parks in Beirut and the nearby Chouf mountains are full and refugees are running out of places to seek shelter, said Cassandra Nelson, senior communications officer for Mercy Corps. ``These options have really been maxed out. The schools are full, hospital basements are full. With these additional people coming in, there's no place to put them," she said. (Reuters)

Syria

23 air raid victims buried as `martyrs'
DAMASCUS -- Twenty-three Syrians, killed by an Israeli raid on Lebanon, were buried yesterday as the Syrian government sent a formal protest to the United Nations over what one minister called ``a fascist massacre." An Israeli air raid on a farm near the village of Qaa in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Friday killed at least 33 farm workers. Most of the dead were Syrian Kurds from poor villages in northern Syria. Draped in their national flag, the 23 people, including six women, were buried side by side in the village of Jandareez near the border with Turkey on the orders of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who called the dead ``martyrs." (Reuters)

Gaza Strip

Israeli strike kills civilian, medics say
GAZA CITY -- An Israeli airstrike killed a Palestinian in the southern Gaza Strip today, medics said, as Israel pressed its offensive against militants. Five Palestinians, including two militants, were killed by Israeli missiles fired from the air yesterday in the Rafah area. Israeli forces swept into the southern region on Thursday to destroy what the army called ``terrorist infrastructure" as part of a wider offensive against militants launched after gunmen captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid on June 25. Medics said the Palestinian killed in the latest airstrike was a civilian and that four other unarmed people were wounded. The Israeli army had no immediate comment. (Reuters)

West Bank

Israelis arrest Parliament leader
RAMALLAH -- Israeli security forces detained Palestinian parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik, a leader of the governing Hamas movement, in a raid on his West Bank home today. ``We were sitting home peacefully, normally. Then we heard knocking on the door, which surprised and shocked us because the knocking was so loud," his wife told Reuters in Ramallah after the arrest at night . ``He went down because the army was there. He opened the door. They saw him in his pajamas and asked him to go with them. He asked for his clothes, and I brought them." An Israeli army spokesman confirmed Dweik was taken into custody. ``He is the head of Hamas's legislature and since Hamas is a terrorist organization, he is a target for arrest," he said. Israeli forces detained eight members of the Palestinian cabinet and 23 legislators in June after gunmen from Hamas and two other militant groups kidnapped an Israeli soldier . Three of the ministers have been released. ``We condemn and reject this Israeli piracy," Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said . (Reuters)

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