• Joint Israel-US missile test fails

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    JERUSALEM (AP) — A senior Israeli Defense Ministry official says an exercise meant to test an advanced missile defense system developed with the U.S. has failed. The official said a missile was launched from the Mediterranean Sea Tuesday to test the first live interception by the Arrow 3. The system locked and was not deployed, he said anonymously according to protocol. Arrow 3 is part of the multi-layered system Israel is developing to protect itself against a range of missile threats — from short-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to longer-range threats like a missile launch from Iran. Arrow 3 is designed to strike targets outside the atmosphere, intercepting missiles closer to their launch

  • FIFA dismisses Garcia's appeal of World Cup probe

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    GENEVA (AP) — The status of Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts seemed even more secure Tuesday after FIFA dismissed ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia's appeal against the handling of his investigation into the bidding process. FIFA said its appeals panel ruled the case "not admissible." The former U.S. Attorney had objected to ethics judge Joachim Eckert's summary of the World Cup bid investigation, claiming "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations" of his work. Eckert sought to close the case against all nine bidding candidates last month. He concluded that any corruption or rule-breaking was of "very limited scope" and did not influence the votes.

  • Qatar energy minister: OPEC monitoring oil's slide

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar's energy minister says OPEC is monitoring the drop in oil prices closely following a months-long slide that has left crude trading at its lowest point in more than five years. Energy and Industry Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada told reporters in Doha on Tuesday that OPEC is "watching the market closely," but he gave no indication the bloc would change course on current output. The 12-member OPEC, which includes Qatar, decided to keep its production target unchanged at its most recent meeting late last month. Oil prices have continued to fall since. They settled Monday below $56 a barrel, their lowest price since the U.S. was still in recession in the spring of 2009.

  • Turkish football fans on trial for 'coup'

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    ISTANBUL (AP) — Dozens of football fans who took part in last year's mass anti-government protests went on trial on Tuesday accused of an attempted coup, in a case seen as the latest example of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on dissent. Thirty-five fans, including members of Carsi — a die-hard Besiktas fan group — could face life in prison if convicted of charges of trying to "remove the government" through the use of "violence and force." Erdogan has portrayed the mass protests denouncing his rule in June 2013 as a conspiracy to bring down the government. The trial opened as Turkey has come under heavy international criticism for the detentions this week of journalists, TV producers and scriptwriters

  • Qatar's World Cup: Not what you might expect

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cooled, modern stadiums. Fans traveling from the Middle East and beyond, to a region anxious to prove it can put on a show and have its own brand of fun. All against doubts about whether women, gays, and beer-drinkers will feel comfortable. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the wealthy oil- and gas-producing Gulf nation with giant ambitions that belie its size, is shaping up as a unique experience. As plans jump from architects' tables to bricks and mortar on what used to be desert, Qatar officials putting together the first World Cup in the Middle East detailed — in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press — what the fan experience may look like in eight years.

  • France seeking support for Mideast plan

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    PARIS (AP) — France on Tuesday tried to overcome resistance and rally international support for a draft U.N. plan setting a two-year deadline for peace talks on Palestinian statehood. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met in Paris with the secretary-general of the Arab League, Egyptian and Palestinian ministers, and former Israeli President Shimon Peres. Fabius is seeking support for a draft U.N. resolution that the French hope would be a catalyst for peace talks. The French, seeking a higher-profile role in Middle East diplomacy, see their draft as more palatable than a Jordanian-backed resolution also under discussion. There's growing pressure from European legislators to recognize a Palestinian state amid frustration

  • 'Deluded' hostage-taker saw himself as a martyr

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    SYDNEY (AP) — He wrote letters to grieving families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan that likened them to "Hitler's soldiers." He was accused of being an accomplice in the murder of his ex-wife, who was stabbed and set on fire. But the social media postings of 50-year-old Man Haron Monis, the man who was killed Tuesday in a police operation to rescue the people he was holding hostage in a Sydney cafe, indicate he thought of himself as something of a martyr. The self-styled Muslim cleric, who came to Australia as a refugee from Iran, complained of being tortured in prison for his political beliefs and said he was fighting for Islam and peace.

  • British Embassy in Cairo reopens to public

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    CAIRO (AP) — The British Embassy in Cairo says it has reopened and that public services at the embassy are fully operational following more than a week of closure over security concerns. The embassy website says its services resumed on Tuesday. It says security matters concerning the embassy's building have been resolved in cooperation with the Egyptian government. The government had stepped up security measures around the embassy after it was closed to the public on Dec. 7. The embassy did not give details on any threats it may have received. A day after the British, the Canadian Embassy in Cairo also closed over unspecified security concerns.

  • Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man as violence erupted during an arrest operation in the West Bank on Tuesday, the military said. It said Palestinians in the refugee camp of Qalandiya, north of Jerusalem, threw explosive charges and opened fire at soldiers during the operation and that they responded with fire of their own, killing one man, and wounding another. Palestinian medical officials identified the dead man as 20-year-old Mahmoud Abdalla. Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high in recent months, mostly over a disputed holy site in Jerusalem, though the West Bank has been somewhat calmer.

  • Iraq government combats 'ghost soldier' corruption

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi government has identified and stopped payment of tens of millions of dollars in salaries previously disbursed to nonexistent troops, known here as "ghost soldiers," as part of the prime minister's vow to tackle corruption in the military and regain a foothold in the battle against the Islamic State group, two senior government officials said. The initiative is part of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's plan to rebuild the U.S.-trained military which crumbled in the face of last summer's onslaught by Islamic State militants. Al-Abadi recently purged the military and interior ministry from a number of senior officials who were appointees of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki.

  • Qatar: Where is it? What is it?

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    DOHA, Qatar (AP) — WHERE: Qatar is a thumb of land that pokes into the Persian Gulf. Its only land border is with Saudi Arabia. WHAT: Qatar is the world's second-largest exporter of natural gas, after Russia, and has the third-largest proven reserves of the valuable energy source, the fount of much of its vast wealth. SIZE: Ranks just 166 in the world by area; is slightly larger than Jamaica but smaller than Puerto Rico. POPULATION: 2.27 million, the vast majority foreigners. There are just 282,750 native Qataris, according to the government — equivalent to the population of Toledo, Ohio.

  • Australia PM lays flowers at memorials for victims

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    SYDNEY (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott laid flowers Tuesday at a makeshift memorial in Sydney for the victims of a central city cafe siege that left three people dead. Abbott wrote a message and waved to the crowd as he laid a bouquet of white flowers at the memorial in Martin Place, the plaza in central Sydney where the drama took place. His wife, Margie, laid another bouquet of red flowers. From early Tuesday, a steady stream of tearful people placed bouquets at the memorial outside of the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, where the gunman took 17 hostages a day earlier. The siege ended 16 hours later in a barrage of gunfire that left two hostages and the Iranian-born gunman dead, and a nation that has long prided itself

  • Syria parties are killing not protecting civilians

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief accused the warring parties in Syria on Monday of ignoring Security Council demands to protect civilians, citing a doubling of the number of people killed from 100,000 in February to close to 200,000 today and around 1 million injured. Valerie Amos told the Security Council Monday that "brutality, violence and callous disregard for human life" have become hallmarks of the conflict that began in March 2011, and the international community "has become numb to its impact.

  • Kerry, Netanyahu meet as UN efforts heat up

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    ROME (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the U.S. and Israel developed their responses to a draft U.N. resolution that would set a two-year timetable for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Before departing for the talks in Rome, Netanyahu took a hard line and said he would not allow others to dictate conditions for negotiations that might compromise Israel's security. For the U.S., however, the issue is trickier. The Obama administration is reluctant to do anything right now that can be perceived as interference in Israel's upcoming election in March, but it is being pressed by close allies to endorse a negotiating framework that largely adheres to U.S. policy.

  • Turkey dismisses EU criticism of police raids

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's president on Monday rejected the European Union's criticism of police raids on media organizations in the country, telling the 28-member bloc to "keep your opinions to yourselves." The EU has criticized Sunday's police raids, which targeted a newspaper and a television station affiliated with the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen — a one-time ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has turned into one of his biggest critics. Erdogan has accused Gulen's followers within the police and judiciary of being behind corruption allegations that rattled his government last year and has vowed to go after his group.

  • Netanyahu years continue surge in settlements

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    JERUSALEM (AP) — The population of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank has continued to surge during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's years in office, growing at more than twice the pace of Israel's overall population, according to newly obtained official figures. Settlement growth also was strong beyond Israel's separation barrier, seen by many as the basis for a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state. The figures reflect Netanyahu's continued support for settlement construction, even while repeatedly stating his commitment to the eventual establishment of an independent Palestinian state as part of a future peace agreement. They also could be a topic of discussion as U.S.

  • Palestinians seek end-of-occupation vote this week

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will push for a U.N. Security Council vote this week on a resolution setting a November 2016 deadline for ending the Israeli occupation, officials said Monday. Such a move could set the stage for a clash at the Security Council, both over the resolution, which is backed by Jordan, or over a second proposal by France, which seeks a two-year deadline for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the terms of Palestinian statehood. U.S. officials say Secretary of State John Kerry does not consider either of the drafts acceptable. Kerry was meeting on the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday and with two top Abbas aides in London on Tuesd

  • A look at Israeli settler population growth

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Here is a look at the growth in the population of Israel's West Bank settlements over the past decade, including the past five years under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, compared with growth of the overall Israeli and Palestinian populations. 2003 2008 2013 Israeli overall population: 6.75 million 7.42 million 8.13 million Growth 9.9 percent 9.

  • Islamic fighters capture 2 army bases in NW Syria

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    BEIRUT (AP) — Al-Qaida-linked and other Islamic fighters captured two key Syrian army bases on Monday in the northwestern province of Idlib after two days of intense battles with government troops that killed dozens on both sides, activists said. The fall of the two bases — Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh, both located near the town of Maaret al-Numan — is a significant blow to the Syrian army, which had managed to hold on to them for more than two years, repelling repeated attacks by an array of opposition groups. The battles for "these two bases were exhausting the rebel factions," said Hussam Abu Bakr, a spokesman for the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham group, one of the strongest rebel factions in northern Syria. He said hi

  • Envoy: UN action can't replace Mideast talks

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N.'s top Mideast envoy warned Monday that Security Council resolutions addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be a substitute for peace negotiations between the two sides. But Robert Serry said council action would be "a major step," and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hopes a council vote will spur renewed talks. Serry spoke to the council after the Palestinians announced they will push for a council vote this week on a resolution setting a November 2016 deadline for ending Israeli occupation. France is also spearheading negotiations on a resolution that would set the outlines of a peace deal, with a binding time frame.