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  • Philippine troops pull 'greatest escape' in Golan

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    BEIRUT (AP) — Under cover of darkness, 40 Filipino peacekeepers escaped their besieged outpost in the Golan Heights after a seven-hour gunbattle with Syrian rebels, Philippine officials said Sunday. Al-Qaida-linked insurgents still hold captive 45 Fijian troops. The getaway, combined with the departure of another entrapped group of Filipino troops, marked a major step forward in a crisis that erupted on Thursday when Syrian rebels began targeting the peacekeeping forces. The United Nations Security Council has condemned the assaults on the international troops monitoring the Syrian-Israeli frontier, and has demanded the unconditional release of those still in captivity.

  • Iraqi forces break militant siege of Shiite town

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen on Sunday broke a six-week siege imposed by the Islamic State extremist group on the northern Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli, as a suicide bombing killed 14 people in Anbar western province, officials said. Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the operation started at dawn Sunday and the forces entered the town shortly after midday. Speaking live on state TV, al-Moussawi said the forces suffered "some causalities," but did not give a specific number. He said fighting was "still ongoing to clear the surrounding villages." Breaking the siege was a "big achievement and an important victory" he said, for all involved: the Iraqi army, elite troops, Kurdis

  • Germany to send rifles, tank busters to aid Kurds

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    BERLIN (AP) — Germany will send high-end rifles, tank-busting weapons and armored vehicles to aid Kurdish fighters battling Islamic extremists in Iraq, officials said Sunday. Germany's defense minister said the arms would be sent in three shipments, starting in September, and would initially be enough to equip a brigade of 4,000 Peshmerga fighters. "This is in our security interest," Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Berlin. Germany joins other European countries who have pledged to provide arms to the Kurds fighting the Islamic State group that has swept into northern Iraq in recent months.

  • Egypt delays deadline for criticized NGO registry

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian authorities pushed back Sunday a deadline for local and international non-government organizations to register under a restrictive law or risk being shut down, a decision that was criticized as a way to silence critics of the government, a government official said. The initial decision called on civil groups to register under a law that dates back to longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak that gives the government wide-ranging powers to interfere in their work, finances and staffing. Violators risked being shut down or prosecuted. The decision had raised a storm among a number of local and international rights groups, who saw themselves targeted by such a move.

  • Israel calls on region to rebuild, disarm Gaza

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel and several Arab countries should work together to rebuild the Gaza Strip while disarming Hamas militants who rule the territory, Israel's finance minister said Sunday. The remarks by Yair Lapid come almost a week after Israel and Hamas militants reached a truce after almost two months of fighting that devastated parts of Gaza. "We need a regional conference, with the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Gulf States," Lapid, a member of the centrist Yesh Atid party, told reporters in Jerusalem. "That conference should focus on one thing, ensuring the rehabilitation takes place alongside demilitarization," he said. It is unclear how he foresaw the group demilitarizing Gaza as Hamas has vowed it will never

  • Israel's 'The Farewell Party' finds humor in death

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    VENICE, Italy (AP) — With dozens of films jostling for attention at the Venice Film Festival, it takes originality to make an impact. Two Israeli filmmakers have done it by refusing to accept that death is no laughing matter. "The Farewell Party" centers on a group of Jerusalem retirement-home residents who create a euthanasia machine to put a dying friend out of his misery — and then face a moral dilemma when others come seeking the same service. The movie treats assisted suicide — illegal in Israel and many other countries — with large doses of comedy, an idea some may find off-putting. But directors Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit insist that the movie's unusual tone, with shoots of laughter and absurdity illuminating

  • Israel shoots down drone from Syria over Golan

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military said Sunday that it shot down a drone that entered Israeli-controlled airspace from neighboring Syria, heightening tensions in the volatile Golan Heights. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the aircraft apparently belonged to the Syrian military and accidentally crossed over into the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan. It was shot down with a Patriot missile. "We have repeatedly stated that we will respond to any breach of Israel's sovereignty and will continue to act to maintain safety and security," Lerner said. The military said the incident occurred near Quneitra, a main crossing point between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan.

  • Al-Qaida-linked group releases 5 Lebanese troops

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    BEIRUT (AP) — An al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebel group has released five members of the Lebanese security forces captured earlier this month in a cross-border raid, Lebanon's military said Sunday. The men were taken hostage when militants from Syria took over the Lebanese border town of Arsal for five days before withdrawing toward the Syrian frontier, taking with them Lebanese soldiers and policemen as hostages. The clashes were the most dangerous spillover of violence from the civil war in neighboring Syria. The National News Agency said Sunday that the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, freed the five men late Saturday. The Lebanese army confirmed their release in a statement.

  • Boat carrying 100 migrants capsizes off Libya

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A boat carrying more than 100 migrants capsized off the coast near the Libyan capital, a coast guard official said Sunday. Abdel-Latif Mohammed said the coast guard found the damaged rubber boat off the shores of al-Qarbouli, 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Tripoli. The coast guard has not yet confirmed the number of deaths but estimated the boat carried at least 100 people. Last week, at least 100 African migrants, including five children, drowned in the same area. Libya has grown increasingly lawless since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, making it a migration hub for sub-Saharan Africans seeking a better life. Scores are killed every year on the dangerous journey to Europe.

  • Israeli fire on Gaza town raises war crimes claim

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — The first of August dawned as a day of promise for the Mahmoum clan and thousands of other Palestinians stuck in United Nations shelters in Rafah — thanks to a temporary cease-fire with Israel they could go home for three days. But the expected respite quickly turned into one of the deadliest and most controversial episodes in the recent war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After just two hours, amid fear that Hamas had captured an Israeli soldier, the Israeli military sealed off the Rafah area and began shelling. By the end of the next day, 190 Palestinians were dead, according to a list of names compiled by two Gaza human rights groups, including 14 members of the Mahmoum family.

  • German security official warns of terror threat

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    BERLIN (AP) — Germany's domestic intelligence agency expects that Islamic extremists who have traveled to Syria and Iraq will return and commit terror attacks. Unlike Britain, Germany hasn't raised its national threat level for terrorism recently. But Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that there was an "increased abstract threat" of attacks in Germany. At least 400 people from Germany have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic extremist groups, though the real figure may be significantly higher, Maassen told Deutschlandfunk radio. "We have to assume ...

  • Report: Iran car crash kills 14, including Afghans

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A news agency in Iran is reporting that a car crash involving Afghan migrants has killed 14 people. The semiofficial Mehr news agency reported Sunday that the crash between two cars happened late Saturday night on the outskirts of the town of Darab in southern Iran. The agency identified 13 of the dead as Afghan migrants who illegally crossed the border into Iran, as well as an Iranian driver of one of the cars. It did not offer a cause for the crash, though it said the cars burst into flames after the collision. Iran has one of the world's worst traffic safety records, with some 16,000 killed each year. The high death tolls are blamed on high-speed driving, unsafe vehicles, disregard of traffic la

  • Iran FM says ready to meet Saudi counterpart

    Updated: Sun, Aug 31, 2014

    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's foreign minister says he is ready to meet his Saudi Arabian counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September and to visit the Gulf powerhouse later this year. Mohammad Javad Zarif's remarks at a press conference Sunday come amid a slight diplomatic warming between Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran, which are fiercely divided over the civil war in Syria and other regional conflicts. Zarif's deputy visited Saudi Arabia last week and met Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, in the highest-level bilateral talks between the two Middle East powers since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, was elected last year.

  • All Filipino peacekeepers escape Golan standoff

    Updated: Sat, Aug 30, 2014

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Under cover of darkness, 40 Filipino peacekeepers made a daring escape after being surrounded and coming under fire by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights, the Philippine military chief said Sunday, while 44 Fijian troops remained in the hands of the al-Qaida-linked insurgents. After coming under rebel attack Saturday, the first group of 35 Filipino peacekeepers was successfully escorted out of a U.N. encampment in Breiqa by Irish and Filipino forces on board armored vehicles, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang and other military officials said.

  • Syrian rebels attack peacekeepers in Golan Heights

    Updated: Sat, Aug 30, 2014

    BEIRUT (AP) — Clashes erupted between al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels and U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on Saturday after the militants surrounded their encampment, activists and officials said, as the international organization risked being sucked further into the conflict. Other U.N. peacekeepers were able to flee from a different encampment that that was also surrounded by rebels of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, they said. Late Saturday, the U.N. spokesperson's office reported that "the situation on the ground is calm but tense' in the Golan.

  • Australia to fly guns and ammunition into Iraq

    Updated: Sat, Aug 30, 2014

    CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian military aircraft will fly guns and ammunition into Iraq to help fight Islamic State militants, Australia's prime minister said on Sunday. "The United States government has requested that Australia help to transport stores of military equipment, including arms and munitions, as part of a multi-nation effort," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement. "Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster aircraft will join aircraft from other nations including Canada, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and the United States to conduct this important task," Abbott added. He did not say when the air drops would begin, but News Corp.

  • Gulf meeting ends without clear end to Qatar spat

    Updated: Sat, Aug 30, 2014

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A meeting of Gulf foreign ministers ended on Saturday without a clear way out of a monthslong diplomatic spat with Qatar, although some envoys signaled that progress had been made. Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March in an unprecedented public protest largely believed to be spurred by the tiny nation's support for Islamist groups in Egypt, Libya, the Gaza Strip and elsewhere. They accused Qatar of interfering in their domestic affairs and failing to uphold a security pact drawn up last year. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have little tolerance for Muslim Brotherhood-linked activity and perceive the Islamist group as a threat to t

  • Rebuilding Gaza will take 20 years, group says

    Updated: Sat, Aug 30, 2014

    JERUSALEM (AP) — An international organization involved in assessing post-conflict reconstruction says it will take 20 years under current levels of restrictions to rebuild the Gaza Strip's battered and neglected housing stock following the war between Hamas and Israel. Most of the new building would be to make up for the current housing deficit, rather than to address damage from fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants. Meanwhile, appearing in a round of post-war interviews on Israeli TV channels, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was not ready to return to the negotiating table with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas unless he distances himself from Hamas militants. Hamas and Abbas' Palestinian Auth

  • Saudi king warns of terrorist threat to Europe, US

    Updated: Sat, Aug 30, 2014

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The king of Saudi Arabia has warned that extremists could attack Europe and the U.S. if there is not a strong international response to terrorism after the Islamic State group seized a wide territory across Iraq and Syria. While not mentioning any terrorist groups by name, King Abdullah's statement appeared aimed at drawing Washington and NATO forces into a wider fight against the Islamic State group and its supporters in the region. Saudi Arabia openly backs rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, but is concerned that the breakaway al-Qaida group could also turn those very same weapons on the kingdom.

  • Bahraini activist detained on arrival to kingdom

    Updated: Sat, Aug 30, 2014

    MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Police detained Bahraini human rights campaigner Maryam al-Khawaja after her arrival in the Gulf country on Saturday, her mother said. Al-Khawaja has dual Bahraini and Danish citizenship. Her mother, Khadija al-Musawi, told The Associated Press that her daughter was refused entry after presenting her Danish passport and a Bahraini identification card, and at one point was surrounded by police. The activist has said she wanted to visit her jailed father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is on hunger strike to protest his detention. Lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi told the AP that prosecutors plan to press charges against al-Khawaja that include insulting the king and police. Bahraini authorities had no immedia