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Experts: French Courtship of Gulf Monarchies is Risky

Hungry for defense deals, France has cosied up to the Gulf monarchies, winning several billion-euro contracts in the process, but its strategy of backing one side in the region's Sunni-Shia power struggle is risky, say experts.

These are boom times for France's defense industry, with the country signing 15 billion euros ($16.7 billion) worth of weapons deals this year -- almost double its 8.1-billion tally for the whole of 2014. 

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Israel Gives Palestinian 30 Years for Murder Attempts

An Israeli court on Wednesday sentenced an east Jerusalem Palestinian to 30 years in prison for 10 counts of attempted murder, court documents showed.

Aziz Oweissat, 50, was found guilty of attempts including an ax attack on a 73-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish man near Jerusalem's Old City and the detaching of gas pipes at several homes in the city with the aim of blowing up their Israeli occupants.

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Iran Leader Says U.S. Backing 'Immense Crimes' in Yemen

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday accused the United States of supporting "immense crimes" in Yemen by Saudi Arabia, which is leading an air war against Tehran-backed rebels.

"The Saudi government is killing innocent people, women and children in Yemen ... and Americans support these immense crimes," Khamenei said in a speech to students quoted on his official website.

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3 Palestinian Gunmen Killed in Egypt's Sinai

The Egyptian military Wednesday shot dead three Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated through a smuggling tunnel in the Sinai town of Rafah on the border with Gaza, security officials said.

They said the "armed Palestinians" and the military clashed in a buffer zone established along the border.

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Saudi Beheads 79th Convict This Year

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday beheaded one of its nationals convicted of drug trafficking, bringing to 79 the number of executions this year.

According to AFP tallies, that figure compares with 87 for all of last year and adds to what Amnesty International has called a "macabre spike" in the kingdom's executions of locals and foreigners.

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Syria's Assad Says Losing Battles Doesn't Mean War is Lost

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Wednesday that setbacks are a normal part of war and do not mean the conflict is lost, in his first comments after several regime defeats.

"Today we are fighting a war, not a battle. War is not one battle, but a series of many battles," he said at a rare public appearance on Syria's Martyrs Day.

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Yemen Rebel Forces Kill Loyalist Army Commander in South

Rebel fighters on Wednesday shot dead the commander of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's loyalist forces in southern Yemen, a military official said. 

General Ali Nasser Hadi was killed as he led forces fighting Huthi Shiite rebels in the Tawahi district of the port city of Aden, the official told Agence France Presse. 

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Iran Says Crew of Seized Maersk Vessel are 'Free'

Iran on Wednesday denied it had detained the crew of the Maersk Tigris cargo vessel it seized in a business dispute last week, saying they were benefiting from diplomatic assistance.

The vessel -- chartered by Danish shipping group A.P. Moeller-Maersk and with 24 crew aboard -- was seized by Iranian patrol boats on April 28 in the busy Strait of Hormuz.

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Kerry to Discuss 'Humanitarian Pause' in Yemen with Saudis

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he will discuss with Saudi Arabia the implementation of a "humanitarian pause" in military operations in Yemen in order to help aid operations.

The possibility of a halt in the US-backed Saudi-led coalition raids in the country comes after United Nations warnings that key infrastructure in Yemen -- including water supplies and hospitals -- is on the brink of collapse and that an arms embargo was hampering the delivery of aid.

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IS Attack on Kurdish Forces in Syria Kills 16

At least 16 members of the Syrian Kurdish security forces were killed Wednesday in an Islamic State group attack on a base in the northeastern province of Hasakeh, a monitor said.

"There was a large explosion at dawn today in Hasakeh city caused by an Islamic State car bomb attack on a base belonging to the Kurdish internal security forces," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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