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Gaza Toll Hits 342 as Israel Announces 2 Soldiers Killed in Militant Infiltration

The Gaza death toll hit 342 on Saturday as Israeli warplanes intensified their bombardment and troops pressed a ground assault on the 12th day of a major confrontation with Hamas.

The latest incident in Gaza saw one man killed in an air strike on the northern town of Jabaliya shortly after two were killed in a strike near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

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Gunmen Kill 21 Egyptian Soldiers in Checkpoint Attack

Gunmen who attacked an Egyptian border guards checkpoint on Saturday killed 21 soldiers, a military official told Agence France Presse, raising a previous death toll of 15 troops.

The attackers used rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machineguns in the attack on the post in the desert area of El-Farafrah, 630 kilometers (390 miles) west of Cairo, security officials said.

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Dead Soldier's Relatives in Tunisia Given Wrong Body

Relatives of Tunisian soldier Zaki Saidani who was among 14 soldiers killed this week by suspected jihadists were shocked on Saturday to find the wrong body inside his coffin.

The defense ministry admitted that authorities had delivered the wrong body to the Saidani family who had gathered to mourn him in their home town of Metlaoui in central Tunisia.

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Iraq President Home after 18-Month Convalescence

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani flew back to his Kurdish fiefdom of Sulaimaniyah Saturday after more than 18 months in Germany for medical treatment, sources in his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said.

The 80-year-old head of state arrived on a private aircraft, but access to the airport was restricted to his close entourage, an Agence France Presse correspondent said.

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French FM Insists Gaza Truce 'Absolute Priority'

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius insisted on Saturday that his country's "absolute priority" is to secure a truce in Gaza, saying an Egyptian initiative for ceasefire enjoys international support.

At a joint news conference with his Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh, Fabius said his regional tour seeks to help "break the spiral of violence and to protect the civilian population as much as possible" in Gaza, where the Israeli bombardment has killed more than 330 Palestinians.

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Iraqi President Jalal Talabani: A Pragmatic Negotiator

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who returned home Saturday from months of convalescence abroad, is an avuncular politician and a skilled negotiator toughened by his decades-old struggle for Kurdish independence.

His current state of health is unknown, with journalists having been kept away from the Sulaimaniyah airport where the Iraqi leader arrived on a private aircraft after spending 18 months in Germany receiving treatment following a stroke.

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In Gaza, Whatever theTarget, Children Often the Victims

Ten-year-old Afnan Shuheiber was playing on a Gaza City rooftop with her cousins when she became one of at least 73 children killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip.

The spiraling number of children killed in the latest conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza has raised international concern.

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Egyptian Military Block Activist Aid Convoy to Gaza

Egyptian soldiers in north Sinai prevented an aid convoy of activists from reaching the Rafah border crossing with the embattled Palestinian Gaza Strip on Saturday, an Agence France Presse correspondent said.

An army officer at the Balloza checkpoint, one of many along the desert highway to Rafah, told an AFP correspondent that the security situation in the restive peninsula was too unstable to allow the convoy of 11 buses and 500 activists to pass.

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Baghdad Car Bombs Kill at Least 12

At least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded in Baghdad Saturday when four near simultaneous car bombs exploded in the Iraqi capital, medical and security sources said.

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Philippines Orders its Nationals to Leave Gaza

The Philippines ordered its some 100 nationals in Gaza to leave the besieged Palestinian territory Saturday, as the death toll from 12 days of Israeli strikes rose to 318.

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