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West Bank Jewish Settler Population Soars

Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank numbered 382,031 at the end of June, up from 374,469 six months earlier, the leading settler organization said on Tuesday.

The number does not include annexed east Jerusalem, which Israel has declared to be an integral part of the Jewish state and an inseparable component of its capital. Around 200,000 Israelis live in the eastern Arab sector of the city.

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Traffickers 'Laughed' as they Capsized Boat to Drown 500 Refugees

Survivors of the most deadly migrant shipwreck in years have described the horrifying moment traffickers capsized their boat and left them to drown, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday.

"After they hit our boat they waited to make sure that it had sunk completely before leaving. They were laughing," one survivor told IOM.

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Iraq Parliament Rejects PM's Security Nominees

The Iraqi parliament voted down Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's nominees for defense and interior minister Tuesday, leaving the key positions unfilled as the country battles to regain ground from militants.

Parliament approved Abadi's partial cabinet on August 8, ushering in his term as premier, but he asked for a week to present nominees for several ministries, including the security posts.

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Bahrain Sets October 1 Trial Date for Key Activist

Prominent Bahraini rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja, daughter of a jailed Shiite opposition figure, is to stand trial from October 1 charged with assaulting a police officer, her lawyer said Tuesday.

Mohammed al-Jishi told AFP the prosecutor general had also decided to extend her custody pending the trial. A conviction could carry a five-year prison sentence, he said.

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U.N. Brokers Gaza Reconstruction Deal

The United Nations has brokered an Israeli-Palestinian deal on imports of construction materials to Gaza to ensure they will not be diverted by Hamas militants, an envoy said Tuesday.

The agreement on monitoring the supply of materials "must get up and running without delay," said Robert Serry, the U.N. envoy for the Middle East.

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U.S. Says 'Combat Advisers' May Battle IS in Iraq, Strikes to Target 'Safe Havens' in Syria

The United States plans to strike the Islamic State group in its Syrian strongholds and could send military advisers into combat alongside Iraqi troops, American commanders said Tuesday.

Military leaders warned of a further escalation in their battle against the jihadists just as two branches of the rival Al-Qaeda group called for a united front against the war coalition Washington is building.

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Saudi Beheads Syrian Drug Trafficker

A Syrian convicted of drug trafficking was beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, the interior ministry said.

Mohammed Ismail al-Jammus had been charged with smuggling a large quantity of amphetamines into the country, a ministry statement reported by state news agency SPA said.

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Syrian Opposition Halts Vaccinations after Death Reports

The Syrian opposition said Tuesday it halted a measles vaccination campaign in northeastern Idlib province following reports that children had died after being inoculated.

The announcement came in a statement posted on the websites of the Syrian opposition National Coalition and the rebel interim government.

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Jihadists Confiscate Non-Sunni Assets in Iraq's Mosul

Jihadists ruling Iraq's northern city of Mosul are forcing residents who were in business partnerships with Christians and Shiites to hand over non-Sunni assets, witnesses said Tuesday.

Groups of armed men from the Islamic State (IS) group, which has controlled Iraq's second city for three months, have been systematically visiting shops and businesses in recent days.

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Kurds Retake Christian Villages from Iraq Jihadists

Kurdish peshmerga forces on Tuesday recaptured several Christian villages in northern Iraq in clashes with Islamic State (IS) jihadists, an officer and a cleric said.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians, most of them Chaldeans, fled their homes when IS militants launched a renewed drive in the north in early August.

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