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Barrel Bombs Kill 13 in Syria's Aleppo

Syrian government forces dropped barrel bombs on rebel-held districts of Aleppo Wednesday, killing 13 people as they pressed an assault southeast of the northern city, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported more than 20 barrel bombs had been dropped on the town of Daraya, southwest of the capital Damascus.

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Iraq Forces 'Take Back Control' of Western Areas

Iraqi forces Wednesday wrested back control of key areas west of Baghdad that have been out of government hands for weeks amid a deadly standoff between militants and security forces.

The battles in Anbar province, a mostly-Sunni desert region bordering on Syria, and a protracted surge in nationwide violence, have killed more than 850 people this month, fueling fears Iraq is slipping back into the all-out conflict that plagued it from 2006 to 2008.

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Algeria Slams Morocco Charges over Syria Refugees

Algeria summoned Morocco's ambassador Wednesday in a tit-for-tat move over allegations it had expelled dozens of Syrian refugees that added a new twist to frequent rows between the North African neighbors.

The ambassador was informed of "the Algerian government's strong rejection of unfounded claims ... of the supposed expulsion of Syrian nationals to Moroccan territory," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

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Egypt to Try 20 Al-Jazeera Journalists

Egyptian prosecutors Wednesday referred to trial 20 journalists working for Al-Jazeera television, including four foreigners accused of "airing false news."

The Qatar-based news channel, which has incensed Egypt's new military-installed authorities by its coverage of their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, said the charges are baseless and "silly."

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U.N. Mediator Doesn't Expect 'Substantive' Result at Syria Talks Round

The ice is slowly breaking in peace talks between Syria's warring sides, U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said Wednesday, warning though that no substantive results were expected during this round.

"The ice is breaking, slowly, but it is breaking," Brahimi told reporters after a fifth day of talks in Geneva, which both sides described as "positive."

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Libya Interior Minister Escapes Assassination Bid

Libya's interior minister escaped unscathed from an assassination attempt in Tripoli on Wednesday, the LANA news agency reported.

Seddik Abdelkarim, who is also deputy prime minister, was in his car when "unknown gunmen fired a barrage of bullets" at the vehicle, the agency said, adding that no one was killed or wounded in the attack.

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France Charges Yemen Airline over Deadly 2009 Crash

France has charged Yemenia Airways with manslaughter over a 2009 crash off the Comoros islands in which 152 people were killed, sources said Wednesday.

The Yemen carrier was charged on November 15 in connection with the crash of an Airbus A310 which French authorities have said should not have been allowed to fly, a judicial source said.

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Israel Troops Kill Palestinian Teen in West Bank

Israeli soldiers shot dead a 19-year-old Palestinian in the West Bank on Wednesday, with the army alleging he had opened fire at them although witnesses insisted he was unarmed.

The incident, which occurred just past the Ofra settlement, north of Ramallah, was the first time this year that a Palestinian has been killed by troops in the West Bank.

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Bahrain Shuts Shiite Clerics' Council

A Bahraini court shuttered a Shiite Muslim clerics' council on Wednesday, after authorities in the Sunni-ruled kingdom accused it of politicization and illegal operations.

The court ordered the closure of the Olamaa Islamic Council and the liquidation of its assets following a lawsuit by the ministry of justice, Islamic affairs and endowments, a judicial source said.

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20,000 People in Syria's Yarmuk Camp Face Starvation

Besieged since June, nearly 20,000 people in Damascus' Yarmuk Palestinian camp are so desperate for food that many eat stray animals, and some women have resorted to prostitution, according to residents reached via the Internet.

"Many here have slaughtered and eaten cats and dogs, and even a donkey," said Yarmuk resident Ali, who was a university student when Syria's revolt erupted in 2011.

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