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Saudi Religious Leader Denounces 'Lies' after Hajj Tragedy

A senior Saudi religious leader on Friday denounced "lies" being spread about the kingdom after more than 1,350 people died in tragedies that struck this year's pilgrimage.

In his first major remarks touching on the September 24 hajj stampede, Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Sudais urged people to remember the efforts Saudi Arabia has made to take care of Muslim pilgrims.

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Pentagon Scaling Back Syria Rebel Training

The Pentagon said Friday it will halt its troubled program to build Syrian rebel units to fight the Islamic State and focus instead on training and arming vetted leaders already on the ground.

"The model before was we were training infantry-type units. We are now changing to a model that will produce more military combat capability," a senior U.S. defense official said.

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Coalition Warplanes Bomb Yemen Rebels

Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition raided positions of the Iran-backed Shiite insurgents east of the rebel-held capital Friday, military sources said.

The air strikes targeted Huthi rebels in the west of Marib province, amid ongoing clashes between them and forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

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Russia Says Hit 60 'Terrorist Targets' in New Syria Strikes

Russia's air force hit more than 60 "terrorist targets" in Syria over the past 24 hours, Moscow's military said Friday, significantly ramping up its bombing campaign in the war-torn country.

"Sixty-seven sorties have been carried out from the Hmeimim air base" in Syria, the deputy head of the Russian General Staff, Lieutenant General Igor Makushev, told reporters.

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Berlin, Madrid Urge U.S., Russia to Cooperate to End Syria Conflict

Germany and Spain on Friday urged Washington and Moscow to work together to help unlock a political solution to the Syrian war, after Russian air strikes there raised tensions.

"The current priority is to seek agreement between the United States and Russia," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Madrid.

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Israelis Worried but Defiant amid Wave of Stabbings

Israelis are deeply unnerved in the midst of a spate of stabbings that have brought back memories of previous Palestinian uprisings, but say they are ready to "confront" any attacker.

Those who witnessed the 1987 and 2000 intifadas especially are reverting to making mental lists of places to avoid and basic safety habits.

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Pope Deplores 'Escalation of Violence' in Mideast, Urges Action

Pope Francis on Friday deplored the "escalation of violence affecting innocent civilians" in the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq, Jerusalem and the West Bank, and urged the international community to act.

Addressing a global Church summit on the family at the Vatican, Francis said he was praying for those caught up in conflicts across the region which "bring destruction and multiply people's suffering".

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Tunisian Mediators Win Nobel Peace Prize

Tunisian civil society groups won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for helping to create the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring, at a time when the country is under threat from jihadist violence.

The Nobel panel said the award to the National Dialogue Quartet was intended as an "encouragement to the Tunisian people" and as an inspiration for others, particularly in the turbulent Middle East.

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Iran Declines to Confirm Hit by Russia Missiles

Iran on Friday declined to confirm a claim by a U.S. official that Russian missiles targeting rebels in Syria crashed in its territory this week.

"We don't confirm" this information, foreign ministry spokeswoman Afkham Marzieh said when asked about the claim.

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Wave of Stabbings Shake Israel and West Bank

A fresh wave of stabbings shook Israel and the West Bank on Friday, including a suspected revenge attack by a Jewish suspect that wounded two Palestinians and two Arab Israelis.

Attacks also continued against Israelis and Jews, with a Palestinian stabbing a policeman near a West Bank settlement before being shot dead by the victim, who was lightly wounded.

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