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Iraq forces beat back fresh militant assault on Haditha

Iraqi forces and tribal fighters Saturday beat back a fresh assault by Sunni militants on the town of Haditha, strategic for the large nearby dam and its oil refinery, police said. Battles also erupted Saturday in the central province of Diyala as security forces fought back against militants who have seized swathes of territory and a string of towns and cities in an offensive launched on June 9. The attack on Haditha, located northwest of Baghdad in Anbar province on the road linking militant-held western areas and the provincial capital, began with mortar fire, police said. Gunmen travelling in vehicles, including some captured from security forces, then attacked from two sides but were kept from entering the town in fighting that left 13 militants and four police dead, officers and a doctor said.


Gaza toll at 127 on day five of Israeli strikes

Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip killed 22 people Saturday, bringing to 127 the toll on the fifth day of violence, medics said. In the latest strike, six men were killed in the Sheikh Radwan district of western Gaza City, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said. Another three people were killed in eastern Gaza City, and three in an attack on the wester side of town. Earlier, Qudra announced the deaths of eight other Palestinians, including a man who died of wounds sustained in an earlier strike, five people killed in Gaza's northern Jabaliya and two further south in Deir el-Balah.


Britain bars Russian delegation from Farnborough air show

Britain said Saturday it had barred a Russian delegation from attending the Farnborough air show because of the Ukraine crisis, sparking an angry reaction from Russia. The Russian embassy in London expressed "regret" that Britain had not issued visas to a large part of its delegation and demanded an urgent explanation. The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) is a key event in the aviation sector calendar, with Russia usually sending a sizeable contingent as it seeks foreign sales. Britain has been a strong backer of EU asset bans and travel freezes against Moscow over what it says is Russian interference in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine.


Blair arrives in Cairo for talks over Gaza violence

Cairo (AFP) - Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair arrived in Cairo Saturday for talks on ending the violence in Gaza, where Israeli air raids have killed more than 125 Palestinians this week, officials said.


Donetsk: a ghost town waiting for Ukraine's final battle

Donetsk, one of the last bastions of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, has become a ghost town as residents clog the roads and railway stations in a desperate scramble to escape advancing government troops. The self-proclaimed prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic, Oleksandr Borodai, claims more than 70,000 of the city's 900,000 inhabitants have already fled as Kiev's forces move within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the city. Watching over a pile of bags, a man in his fifties prepared to join his parents in Russia with his daughters and grandchildren.


Putin in Cuba, Nicaragua to rekindle Latin America ties

President Vladimir Putin made a surprise stop in Nicaragua after visiting Russia's Cold War ally Cuba, part of a tour to increase Moscow's influence in Latin America amid frayed ties with the West. Putin's six-day trip will also take him to Argentina and Brazil, where he will take part in a summit of the BRICS group of emerging countries -- an agenda that neatly aligns with his push for a multipolar world at a time when the Ukraine crisis has brought Moscow-Washington relations to a post-Cold War low.


Hamas media war targets Israelis and Palestinians

The music video opens with Palestinian Hamas fighters in fatigues building, transporting and then firing rockets at Israel -- but the triumphant lyrics are being sung in Hebrew, not Arabic. "A (nation) state of weakness and illusion can't hold out during wars," it continues, referring to Israel. The five-minute video is part of a slick propaganda programme designed by Hamas and its armed Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades wing. The programme is intended both to rally divided domestic Palestinian opinion behind the group during its current conflict with Israel, but also to address the Israeli public directly.


Ukrainians flee rebel bastion fearing reprisal assault

Panicked Ukrainians flooded highways and packed trains leading out of the main remaining rebel stronghold on Saturday fearing a reprisal assault by government forces after they lost 30 servicemen to defiant militants. Ukraine's new Western-backed leader immediately vowed to hunt down the guilty militias in a push that would shatter all hopes of a truce in one of Europe's most explosive conflicts in decades. "The rebels will pay for the life of every one of our servicemen with tens and hundred of their own," President Petro Poroshenko told an emergency security meeting. The militant talk convinced many in the million-strong eastern hub of Donetsk -- the new home to a flood of gunmen who had abandoned surrounding cities since last weekend -- that their riverside city was about to be bombed.


Britain 'extremely concerned' by Gaza deaths: Hague

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Saturday he was "extremely concerned" about the loss of life in Gaza, where five days of Israeli air strikes have killed more than 120 Palestinians. "Extremely concerned about humanitarian situation and loss of life in Gaza. Speaking to President Abbas today," Hague said on Twitter. Hague's statement represents a departure from the British government stance so far which has unequivocally backed Israel's right to launch air strikes in response to rocket attacks by Hamas militants based in Gaza.


Kremlin snuffs out last avenues of dissent for Putin foes

House raids, bugging devices, threats, violence and demeaning posters are just a few things Vladimir Putin's critics have faced while trying to run for city parliament in the Russian capital. Two years after President Putin was elected for a historic third term - facing mass protests in Moscow where less than half of the population voted for him - the Kremlin strongman is riding high in the polls while the opposition is all but stamped out. The 35-seat body that discusses matters in Moscow -- which has a population of over 11 million and annual budget of about $50 billion -- became the latest target of Kremlin foes scrambling around for at least a modicum of political representation. They have to show that they can squash anybody," said Nikolai Lyaskin, an ally of opposition leader Alexei Navalny who tried to qualify for the polls, but failed due to what he said was constant harassment.


Ex-archbishop Carey backs assisted suicide

The former leader of the Church of England George Carey on Saturday said he had changed his mind and would support a British bill to allow assisted suicide in certain cases. Current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby later restated his and the Church's opposition to the bill, saying it could open the way to abuse and neglect of older people. The former cleric, 78, said he would support the bill, brought by Lord Charles Falconer, which would allow mentally-capable adults to request help to die if they were suffering from a terminal illness and had less than six months to live. The Church of England has consistently argued for no law change, and its current leader repeated his opposition.


Arab foreign ministers to meet Monday on Gaza: diplomat

Arab foreign ministers are to meet in Cairo on Monday to discuss the escalating conflict between Hamas militants in Gaza and Israel which has already killed more than 120 Palestinians, a diplomat said. Kuwait, which holds the rotating leadership of the Arab League headquartered in the Egyptian capital, had demanded the "urgent" meeting, the diplomat told AFP on Saturday. There has been no coordinated Arab response to the conflict which erupted on Tuesday when Israel launched waves of air strikes against Gaza aimed at halting rocket fire across the border. Egypt, the traditional broker in Israeli-Hamas conflicts, said Friday its efforts to halt violence in the Gaza Strip had met with "stubbornness".


Israel vows no let-up, Hamas defiant, as Gaza toll tops 120

Israel pounded Gaza for a fifth day Saturday as it vowed no let-up in its air campaign to halt rocket attacks by militants which has killed more than 120 Palestinians. A defiant Hamas fired five more rockets into Israel as the Islamist movement rejected growing international calls for a halt to hostilities, insisting Israel must act first. Diplomatic efforts to stop the violence saw US President Barack Obama telephoning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Washington offering to use its relationships in the Middle East to bring about a return to calm. "No terrorist target in Gaza is immune."


GOP keeps House edge in Democratic-leaning states

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democrats have long claimed that Republicans abused their legislative powers to elect a disproportionate number of U.S. House members. Now a Florida court is lending credence to their complaint.


Kerry meeting again with Afghan candidates

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with rival Afghan presidential candidates for a second day as the United States struggles to find a path out of the crisis enveloping the nation's elections.


Fog of war in Benghazi hampered military response

WASHINGTON (AP) — The military might have been able to prevent two of the four U.S. deaths in Benghazi if commanders had known more about the intensity of the sporadic gunfire directed at the CIA installation where Americans had taken refuge and had pressed to get a rescue team there faster, according to senior military leaders.


China's top paper says no place for a 'new cold war' with U.S.

China and the United States must avoid a "new cold war" in their international relations, China's top newspaper said on Saturday, in the wake of high level talks in Beijing between senior leaders of the world's two largest economies. China and the United States agreed on Thursday to boost military ties and counter-terrorism cooperation during annual talks in Beijing, but there was little immediate sign of progress on thorny cyber-security or maritime issues. "Both China and the United States realize that today's world has already undergone profound changes, and there is no longer a market for a "new cold war", the People's Daily, the ruling communist party's official paper, said in a commentary. It was published under the pen name "Zhong Sheng", meaning "Voice of China", often used to give views on foreign policy.


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