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Islamic Leaders Battle Misconception about Vaccines, Fasting

Islamic leaders are using social media, virtual town halls and face-to-face discussions to spread the word that it's acceptable to be vaccinated for the coronavirus during daily fasting that happens during Ramadan, the most sacred month of the year for Muslims.

During the holy month which begins next week, Muslims across the world abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset before typically congregating for evening prayers and iftar meals. The vaccine discussion centers on whether an inoculation amounts to the prohibited act of ingesting something while fasting.

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Australia to Buy Extra 20 Million Doses of Pfizer Vaccine

Australia said Friday that it has finalized a deal to buy an extra 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine as it rapidly pivots away from its earlier plan to rely mainly on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the deal just hours after saying Australia would stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged under 50.

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Iran Frees South Korean Ship it Held amid Dispute over Funds

A South Korean oil tanker held for months by Iran amid a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul was freed and sailed away early Friday, just hours ahead of further talks between Tehran and world powers over its tattered nuclear deal.

MarineTraffic.com data showed the MT Hankuk Chemi leaving Bandar Abbas in the early morning hours.

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Attack on Iran Ship Off Yemen Escalates Shadow War

An attack this week on an Iranian cargo ship that is said to serve as a floating base for Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces off the coast of Yemen has escalated a yearslong shadow war in Mideast waters. The development comes just as world powers are negotiating over Tehran's tattered nuclear deal.

The assault on the MV Saviz on Tuesday appears to have caused the most-extensive damage yet in this shadow war, seemingly between Iran and Israel - and one that could further escalate regional tensions. Attacks and counterattacks between the two nations could spin out of control.

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Inside Secret Syria Talks Aimed at Freeing American Hostages

Last summer, two U.S. officials ventured into hostile territory for a secret high-stakes meeting with American adversaries.

The Syrian government officials they were scheduled to meet in Damascus seemed ready to discuss the fate of U.S. hostages believed held in their country, including Austin Tice, a journalist captured eight years earlier. The release of the Americans would be a boon to President Donald Trump months ahead of the election. And a breakthrough seemed possible.

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Syrian Missile Hits Lebanon during Israeli Raid on Damascus

Israel carried out a missile attack near the Syrian capital of Damascus and its southern suburbs early Thursday that wounded four soldiers, Syria's state media said.

State news agency, SANA, quoted an unidentified military official as saying that Syrian air defenses were able to shoot down most of the missiles before they hit their targets. SANA said some of the missiles were fired by Israeli warplanes flying over neighboring Lebanon.

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Iran Ship Serving as Red Sea Troop Base near Yemen Attacked

An Iranian cargo ship believed to be a base for the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and anchored for years in the Red Sea off Yemen has been attacked, Tehran acknowledged Wednesday.

Iran's Foreign Ministry confirmed the attack on the MV Saviz, suspected to have been carried out by Israel. The assault came as Iran and world powers sat down in Vienna for the first talks about the U.S. potentially rejoining Tehran's tattered nuclear deal, showing that challenges ahead don't rest merely in those negotiations.

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Netanyahu Sees Prospects Fade as His Trial Resumes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial resumed Monday, with a key witness painting a picture of an image-obsessed Israeli leader forcing a prominent news site to flatter his family and smear his opponents.

The testimony came as Netanyahu's chances of securing another term in office following last month's parliamentary elections appeared to be dwindling in high-stakes political talks hosted by the country's figurehead president just a few miles (kilometers) away.

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Iran Says It Has Arrested Spies for Israel, Other Nations

Iranian authorities arrested several people on charges of spying for Israel and other nations, state TV announced Monday.

An unnamed Intelligence Ministry official in the country's eastern Azerbaijan province was quoted by state TV as saying that security forces had detained a group of people suspected of spying for Israel and other unspecified countries. The brief report did not provide further details on the nationalities of the suspects or provide evidence to support the espionage charges.

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EU, U.S. Pledge Over $1 Billion to Tackle Syria's Crisis

The European Union and the United States pledged a combined $1.2 billion in aid Tuesday to help tackle war-ravaged Syria's deepening humanitarian and economic crises.

The promise of aid comes amid a worsening coronavirus pandemic and as the war enters its 11th year without a political solution in sight. The 27-nation EU and the U.S. announced their commitments on the final day of an annual pledging event co-hosted by the United Nations.

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