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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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