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Saudi Women Drivers Sent to 'Terrorism' Court

Two women's rights campaigners detained in Saudi Arabia have been transferred to a special tribunal for "terrorism", activists said on Thursday after the women appeared in court.

The ruling came at a hearing in Al-Ahsa, in the kingdom's Eastern Province, according to the activists who declined to be named.

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Iran Kicks Off Massive Gulf Military Drills

Iran launched extensive military drills on Thursday, local media reported, in a show of strength stretching several hundred kilometers from the Strait of Hormuz to the Gulf of Aden.

The exercises are set to last six days and involve ballistic missile and drone testing, according to military officials.

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Saudi Beheads Pakistani for Heroin Smuggling

Saudi Arabia on Thursday beheaded a Pakistani man for heroin smuggling, the twelfth person from Pakistan to be executed in the kingdom for drug trafficking since mid-October.

They are among 85 foreigners and Saudis put to death this year in the oil-rich kingdom, according to an Agence France Presse tally.

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Dozens of IS Jihadists Killed Fighting Syria Kurds

At least 44 members of the Islamic State group were killed in clashes with Kurdish forces in Syria on Thursday, a monitoring group said.

Thirty of the jihadists were killed fighting against members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the village of Qassiab in Hasakeh province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Shiite Militia Abduct Senior Yemen Intelligence Official

A senior Yemeni intelligence official was abducted in Sanaa on Thursday by Shiite fighters from the Huthi militia in control of the capital since a September offensive, security sources said.

"General Yahia al-Marrani... was kidnapped this morning by armed Huthis from his home in Sanaa," a source told AFP.

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For Iraqi Christian Family, a Grim Christmas Far from Home

For 40-year-old Ghassan, who shares a small, damp Baghdad classroom with nine relatives, Christmas this year is offering little to celebrate.

"There is no Christmas here," he says, his eyes full of tears as he sits at a school desk, embracing his seven-year-old son.

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Officials Arrested in Israeli Corruption Probe

Israeli police have arrested more than two dozen current and former officials in a corruption probe, including several from the party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a police spokeswoman said Thursday.

Local media reported that the investigation was one of the most "important" anti-graft operations in the country's history and could strike a blow to Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party just three months away from a general election.

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Jordan Vows 'all Efforts' to Save Pilot Seized by Jihadists

Jordan vowed Thursday to make every effort to save a pilot captured by the Islamic State group in Syria as Washington denied claims the jihadists had shot down his warplane.

Maaz al-Kassasbeh, a 26-year-old first lieutenant in the Jordanian air force, was captured by IS on Wednesday after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission against the jihadists over northern Syria.

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Israel Approves 380 New East Jerusalem Settler Homes

Israeli authorities gave final approval on Wednesday to the construction of 380 new settler homes in two areas of annexed east Jerusalem, a local official said.

"The municipal commission has given construction permits for 307 homes in Ramot and 73 in Har Homa," Yosef Pepe Alalu, a Jerusalem city councilor with the opposition Meretz party, told AFP.

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Syria Dissidents to Discuss Ways to End War

Opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime will meet in Cairo to try to reach a common "vision" to end the nearly four-year war, an opposition source said Wednesday.

"Several opposition groups and individuals have been in talks for more than two months, and we have been in contact with them to try to reach a joint vision to solve the crisis," said Munzer Khaddam of the National Democratic Body for Democratic Change, which is tolerated by the regime.

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