By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Crispian Balmer GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli forces pounded the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, sending thousands of residents fleeing, and said it was meeting stiff resistance from Hamas Islamists, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Tel Aviv to push ceasefire talks. In a blow to Israel's economy, U.S. and many European air carriers halted flights to the country citing security worries after a militant rocket from Gaza hit a house near Ben Gurion airport. Israel urged a re-think, saying its airspace was safe. Making an unannounced, one-day visit, Kerry was due to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, signaling an intensification of efforts to end the bloodshed.
Italy's Costa Concordia will set sail on its final voyage Wednesday as survivors look on, two-and-a-half years after the luxury cruise ship crashed and sank in a nighttime disaster that left 32 people dead. The rusting liner, which has been floated from its watery grave in the biggest salvage operation of a passenger ship ever performed, will be towed away to the port of Genoa in northwest Italy to be dismantled and scrapped. Surviving passengers who have returned to Tuscany's Giglio island will gather with locals and holidaymakers to bid a final farewell to the once-magnificent cruise ship.