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Two Shot Dead as Syria Clamps Down ahead of Friday Demos

Syrian forces pressed their clampdown on the pro-democracy movement, killing two protesters and arresting two leading activists, rights groups said on Thursday, on the eve of more mass rallies.

In the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where security forces were carrying out operations in nearly all neighborhoods, two civilians were shot dead on Thursday night, said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syria Observatory for Human Rights.

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Israel, South Sudan Announce Diplomatic Ties

Israel and the newly independent country of South Sudan have established diplomatic relations, the Israeli foreign ministry said on Thursday.

"The cooperation between the states will be based on the firm foundations that guide them in forming friendly ties, out of equality and mutual respect," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement.

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Libyan Rebels Seize Gadhafi Frontier Base

Libyan rebels seized the town of al-Ghazaya near the Tunisian border Thursday as part of a pre-Ramadan offensive aimed at unseating strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

The heaviest fighting was on the eastern side of the town, some 12 kilometers from the border with Tunisia, in a two-pronged attack that also came from the west and began around 8:00 am (0600 GMT).

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Libyan Rebel Council Names Ambassador to London

Libya's rebel National Transitional Council has nominated Mahmoud Nacua as its ambassador to London, a council official said Thursday after Britain recognized the group as the country's sole government.

"The NTC has appointed an ambassador to take over all current affairs. The ambassador is Mahmoud Nacua," Guma al-Gamaty, the UK coordinator for the NTC, told reporters in London.

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Justice Ministry: Mubaraks to be Tried in Cairo

Egypt's ex-president Hosni Mubarak's murder trial on August 3 will take place in Cairo, the official news agency MENA quoted a justice ministry official as saying on Thursday.

"It has been decided that the trial of ex-president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons Alaa and Gamal ... will be held in the building of the General Authority for Investment and the free trade areas in the Cairo Expo grounds," it quoted him as saying.

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Minister: Jordan Won't Allow Threats against Media

Jordan's government said Thursday it will not tolerate threats or attacks against diplomatic missions or news agencies, a day after an anti-Agence France Presse demonstration was staged outside the French embassy in Amman.

"The government will not allow threats or attacks against institutions ... particularly embassies and news agencies," Interior Minister Mazen Saket told al-Arab al-Yawm independent daily.

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Twin Iraq Bombings Kill 12, Wound 28

A twin attack involving a car bomb and a suicide bombing outside a bank in the north Iraq city of Tikrit on Thursday killed at least 12 people and wounded 28, a health official said.

"A car bomb exploded outside the al-Rafidain Bank in the centre of Tikrit, and one minute later a suicide bomber exploded his vest as people gathered, killing at least 12 people and wounding 28," said Dr. Raad al-Jubburi, head of the health department in Salaheddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital.

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Israel Protesters Occupy Roof of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

Dozens of demonstrators occupied the roof of the Tel Aviv stock exchange on Thursday morning, Israeli military radio reported, as protests over the high cost of living spread throughout Israel.

Protesters scaled the building a day after the powerful Histadrut labor union threw its support behind the demonstrators, who have set up tent cities across Israel to protest the high cost of housing.

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Rocket Fired from Gaza Hits Israel

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel on Thursday without causing injuries or damage, the Israeli military said.

The rocket landed in an open field in the Hof Ashkelon region, the military said, adding that the projectile was the 24th to hit Israel this month.

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Hague: Arab Spring Nations Face Years of 'Convulsions'

Countries rocked by the Arab Spring uprisings face "turbulent and difficult" times, Britain's foreign secretary warned Thursday, hours after expelling diplomats loyal to Moammar Gadhafi from Britain.

William Hague said the movements could be derailed by faltering economies, sectarian feuds and counter-revolutions, predicting "a lot of problems and even convulsions" for years to come, in an interview with The Times.

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