The Israeli military and Hamas said on Saturday that they would observe a 12-hour ceasefire from 8:00 am (0500 GMT), but a longer-term truce remained elusive for now. Hamas said that it and other militant groups in Gaza had reached "national consensus on a humanitarian truce" and Israel later confirmed that it would observe what it called "a humanitarian window in the Gaza Strip". A statement from the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza warned people not to approach bombed-out buildings and militant bases for fear of "explosive objects". Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking from Cairo, said that efforts to broker a longer halt to the fighting had so far yet to bear fruit.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and top diplomats from Europe and the Middle East gathered in Paris Saturday called for an extension to a temporary ceasefire currently in force between Israel and Hamas. Both sides have agreed to a 12-hour "humanitarian" truce in Gaza that started on Saturday morning, putting a brief stop to a conflict that has killed nearly 1,000 Palestinians -- a large majority of them civilians. The 19-day Israeli offensive on Hamas-ruled Gaza was launched in response to rockets fired by militants of the Islamist group into the Jewish state, and 37 Israeli soldiers have also died in the violence. "We all call on parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire currently in force, by 24 hours that could be renewed," France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters after the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.
Dutch and Australian forces were being readied Saturday for possible deployment to secure the rebel-held crash site of Malaysian flight MH17 in east Ukraine where many victims' remains still lie nine days after the disaster claimed 298 lives. A truce has been called in the immediate area surrounding the site by both Kiev and pro-Russian separatists, but fierce combat was raging just 60 kilometres (35 miles) away, with loud explosions heard at regular intervals in a suburb of rebel stronghold Donetsk. Nine people were reported killed and 29 wounded in the last 24 hours in another insurgent holdout, Lugansk, while Ukraine's military said it had lost four soldiers. The European Union punished Russia -- which it accuses of abetting the insurgency by arming the rebels who allegedly shot down MH17 -- by slapping sanctions on its intelligence chiefs.
A US military judge at Guantanamo Bay has ruled that one of the five alleged September 11 plotters, Yemeni Ramzi Binalshibh, should be tried separately. Col. James Pohl said it was first necessary to establish whether Binalshibh -- alleged to have served as a liaison between the hijackers and Al-Qaeda leaders -- had the mental capacity to take part in the trial given a 2008 diagnosis by military doctors that he had a "serious mental disease," according to Pohl's order published by the Washington Post. Pohl separated Binalshibh's case from the others to avoid further delaying a trial that, 13 years after the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks, still hasn't started. Military prosecutor Mark Martins has expressed hope that jury selection could start in January 2015.
South Sudan's food crisis is now the worst in the world, the UN Security Council said Friday as it called for urgent funding to step up deliveries of desperately-needed aid. Some 3.9 million people -- a staggering one in three people throughout the country -- are going hungry as the fighting in South Sudan continues, according to UN officials. The Security Council described a "catastrophic food insecurity situation in South Sudan that is now the worst in the world" and said the country was on the threshold of a full-blown famine if fighting continues. It called on countries that pledged 618 million dollars in aid for South Sudan at a conference in May to make good on their promises and to increase their commitment.
Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian teenagers Saturday in continuing West Bank protests over Israel's Gaza military campaign, Palestinian security officials told AFP. They said Nasri Mahmud Paqatqa, 16, was killed and five others wounded in a clash at the village of Beit Fajar, south of Bethlehem and 18-year-old Bassem Abu Rub died in a protest at the Jalama military checkpoint in the northern West Bank. On Friday five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in separate clashes. In the first incident, three Palestinian men were shot dead by troops while protesting against the conflict in Gaza in the village of Beit Ummar near the flashpoint southern city of Hebron, Palestinian security sources said.
Congress gave its final approval Friday to legislation that compels US authorities to assist American mothers and fathers whose children are victims of international parental abductions. More than 1,000 international child abductions each year are reported to the State Department, with children often taken illegally from the United States by a foreign parent to countries like Brazil, England, India, Japan and Russia. By simple voice vote, the House of Representatives approved the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, named after son Sean who, through an intense US diplomatic intervention, was returned to his New Jersey home years after being taken to Brazil by his mother. The House on Friday passed the final legislation and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
US airmen assigned to South Korea are banned from buying or drinking alcohol during their first 30 days in the country under a new rule underscoring the "serious mission" the troops face, officials said Friday. The program is meant to promote "mission readiness" as well as "safety, health, welfare, good order and discipline," spokesman Captain Ray Geoffroy told AFP. The rule is part of a "Korean Readiness Orientation" program for incoming troops issued by the 7th Air Force commander, Lieutenant General Jan-Marc Jouas. "We have a serious mission with a serious enemy, and we must be ready to contend with that by utilizing personal resiliency and a readiness orientation program," he added.
The House Financial Services Committee said on Friday that it will vote on a bill next week aimed at bringing more transparency to the Federal Reserve, including the controversial requirement of adopting a rules-based approach to its policy. Fed officials and economists have expressed concern that the legislation threatens to strip independence from the Fed, which sets monetary policy for the United States under the dual mandate of keeping unemployment low and keeping prices stable. The bill, which Fed Chair Janet Yellen has criticized in public testimony, will come up for a House vote on Tuesday, committee chairman and Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling said in a statement. The Republican-sponsored legislation is unlikely to gain any traction in the Democrat-led Senate, but it could come up for a "show" vote in the House before congressional mid-term elections.
Iranians rallied nationwide on Friday in a show of support for Palestinians as archfoe Israel pursued its deadly campaign against the Gaza Strip. Demonstrations were held in Tehran and more than 700 towns and cities across the country on the last day of prayer and rest of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, state television reported. In the capital, footage showed demonstrators, carrying placards proclaiming "Death to Israel" and "Death to America", converging from nine different points on Tehran University in the city centre. Iran holds Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) rallies in support of the Palestinians every year on the last Friday of Ramadan, but this year's demonstrations came on the 18th day of Israel's deadly campaign against rocket-firing militants in Gaza.
Moody's on Friday raised the debt rating of Portugal one notch to Ba1 and said it had a stable outlook, despite troubles at a major banking group. Moody's cited the Portuguese government's "comfortable liquidity position, with regained access to the public debt markets and sizeable cash buffers" as a factor in making the upgrade. The rating firm said it expected that the country's fiscal consolidation would remain on track despite unfavorable rulings by Portugal's constitutional court. "This should support a gradual reduction in the very high public debt burden in the coming years," it said in a statement.