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Abbas Tasks Fayyad with Forming New Government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday reappointed Salam Fayyad as premier and tasked him with forming a new government after his cabinet resigned, an official said.

"Abbas reappointed Fayyad and asked him to form a new government," a senior official in the president's office told Agence France Presse shortly after Fayyad's cabinet resigned en masse.

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Gadhafi Urges Refugee 'March on Palestine'

Libyan leader Moammer Gadhafi has urged Palestinian refugees to take advantage of current unrest sweeping across the Arab world and stage a march on the Palestinian territories.

"In the context of the popular Arab revolutionary movement, the Palestinian refugees... must march on Palestine, along with their families," he said in a speech to thousands of supporters marking the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

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Palestinians Banned from Entering Egypt

Immigration officers have been instructed to bar Palestinians from entering Egypt, an official at Cairo airport said on Wednesday after 12 travelers were sent back.

"There are instructions to stop Palestinians entering Egypt. Twelve Palestinians were sent back to the places they came from on Wednesday," the official told Agence France Presse, on condition of anonymity.

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Israel Restricts Access to Al-Aqsa to Avert Pro-Egypt Revolt Demos

Access to Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound was restricted on Friday in a bid to prevent demonstrations in support of the Egyptian uprising after Muslim prayers, police said.

"This Friday, we are forbidding access to the compound to men under 50 years old carrying an Israeli identity card," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Agence France Presse.

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In Israel, Merkel Urges Quick Restart of Peace Talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to seek a swift revival of peace talks with the Palestinians citing regional unrest as cause for urgency.

At a joint press conference with Netanyahu on the first day of a visit to Tel Aviv that included a joint German-Israeli cabinet meeting, she spoke of "troubled times" against a backdrop of civil revolt in Egypt and Tunisia.

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Mideast Peace Efforts in 'Crisis' as U.S. Fails in Settlement Freeze Bid

The Middle East peace process lay in tatters Wednesday after Washington admitted defeat in its efforts to secure an Israeli freeze on settlement building, the Palestinians' condition for resuming talks.

Speaking late on Tuesday, U.S. officials admitted top-level efforts to coax Israel into imposing new curbs on West Bank settlement construction had gone nowhere, prompting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to declare a crisis in peace efforts but backslapping among Israeli hardliners.

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Israeli Helicopters Strike Gaza Building, No Casualties

Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at a building near the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis on Thursday, targeting suspected militants, the military said.

Witnesses said the strikes hit a multi-storey building and that tanks also opened fire shortly afterwards. Palestinian medical sources said there were no casualties and that a group of people inside the building were able to escape.

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Poll: Israeli Jews Divided over Removal of Settlements

Jewish Israelis are divided on the question of removing some settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, with 50 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed, a poll said on Thursday.

The survey, which was conducted by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute, found that just 28 percent of Jewish Israelis thought the government would need to remove all settlements, including major blocs.

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Clashes as Israeli Extremists Demonstrate in Arab Town

Israeli police and stone-throwing Arabs clashed in northern Israel on Wednesday as a group of extreme right-wing Israelis tried to march through the Arab Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm.

Hundreds of police clad in riot gear fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse angry Arab youths, many with scarves wrapped around their faces, who burned tires and hurled stones in protest ahead of an extremist rally in their town.

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Hizbullah's Moussawi Salutes Former White House Press Dean's 'Courage'

Hizbullah MP Hussein Moussawi on Wednesday saluted veteran U.S. reporter Helen Thomas' "courage" for her comments against Israel, which sparked a furor Washington and forced her to retire.

"Respected American journalist Helen Thomas' answer shows ... a courageous, bold, honest and free opinion which expresses what people across the globe believe: that Israel is a racist state of murderers and thugs," Moussawi said in a statement.

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