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U.S. 'Horrified' by Syrian Regime Raids, Slams Assad

The United States said Wednesday it was "horrified" by Syrian regime air strikes in the stronghold Raqa that killed at least 95 people, slamming the government for its "continued slaughter." 

The bombing Tuesday was the deadliest by President Bashar Assad's air force since Islamic State jihadists seized the city last year and declared it their capital.

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Iraqi Forces Battle IS Jihadists in Ramadi, Kirkuk

Iraqi security forces and allied tribesmen were battling Wednesday to defend the governor's office in Anbar province capital Ramadi from an attack by the Islamic State jihadist group, officers said.

Kurdish peshmerga forces also engaged in hours of heavy fighting in Kirkuk province in northern Iraq against IS, which spearheaded a major offensive in June that overran key parts of the country.

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EU Urges Israel, Palestinians to Resume Direct Talks

New EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini called on Israel and the Palestinians Wednesday to resume direct peace talks, as the European Parliament debated whether to recognize a Palestinian state.

MEPs will hold a symbolic vote in December, following resolutions passed by the British and Spanish parliaments, and an official decision to recognize Palestine by the Swedish government.

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Israel PM Defends Proposed 'Jewish State' Law

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday defended his government's support for a proposal to enshrine in law Israel's status as the national Jewish homeland, after criticism from President Reuven Rivlin.

Critics say the move -- backed by the cabinet on Sunday -- will come at the expense of democracy and institutionalize discrimination against minorities, including Arabs.

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Egypt's Sisi Talks Libya, Contracts in French Trip

France on Wednesday urged Egypt to continue its path towards democracy, as visiting president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sought to restore his country's reputation with his first European tour after a deadly crackdown on opponents.

"We want the process to continue, a process of democratic transition which respects the roadmap and allows Egypt to succeed fully," said French President Francois Hollande at a joint news conference after talks with Sisi.

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Egypt Jails 78 Minors for Pro-Morsi Protests

An Egyptian court sentenced 78 teenage boys to between two and five years in prison Wednesday for joining protests demanding the return of the ousted Islamist president, judicial sources said.

The authorities have engaged in a crackdown on Mohamed Morsi's supporters since the army deposed him last year, with hundreds jailed in mass trials the United Nations has described as "unprecedented in recent history".

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Putin Meets Syrian Foreign Minister for First Time

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday hosted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in his first meeting with a top envoy from Damascus since the old Moscow ally plunged into civil war more than three years ago.

But the high-stakes discussion was held behind closed doors and neither side disclosed its details.

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Algeria Army Kills Suspect in Frenchman's Beheading

Algerian Justice Minister Tayeb Louh said on Wednesday that the army last month killed a jihadist suspected of taking part in the beheading of Frenchman Herve Gourdel.

"One of the suspects was eliminated in October by the army during an anti-terrorist operation," Louh told reporters, citing a probe into the murder of Gourdel.

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Qaida Branch Executes Syrian for 'Insulting Prophet'

Al-Qaida's Syrian branch on Wednesday executed a man it accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed, in a summary killing mirroring those by the Islamic State group, a monitoring group said.

Al-Nusra Front militants shot dead the civilian, identified as Mohammad al-Mir, in the town of Irbin, just northeast of the capital Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Obama to Host Jordan's King December 5

U.S. President Barack Obama will host Jordan's King Abdullah II at the White House December 5 to discuss ways to "calm tensions in Jerusalem," as well as other regional issues, the president's spokesman said Wednesday.

Obama will consult with the king on "efforts to counter ISIL and find a political solution in Syria, provide humanitarian assistance to refugees from the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, and take steps to calm tensions in Jerusalem," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

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