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Turkey Arrests 17 over 'Syria Arms Interception'

A Turkish court on Friday placed under arrest pending trial 17 soldiers charged in a hugely controversial case over the interception last year of a consignment that allegedly contained arms bound for Syria.

The 17 have been charged with membership of a terrorist organization and working on behalf of the "parallel state", common official shorthand for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's arch enemy the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

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Syrian Observatory: IS Holding 50 Civilians after Raid on Syria Village

Jihadist fighters from the Islamic State group are holding hostage at least 50 civilians, almost half of them women, seized in a raid on a village in central Syria, a monitor said.

They were kidnapped from the village of Mabujeh in Hama province on March 31, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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Japan Journalist's New Passport Bans Travel to Iraq, Syria

An experienced war photographer has vowed to fight the Japanese government after being issued a passport that specifically bars him from going to violence-wracked Iraq and Syria.

Yuichi Sugimoto, who has been reporting from conflict zones for 20 years, had his passport confiscated in February after he refused government requests to abandon a planned trip to a Syrian refugee camp.

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Sarmadi Meets Nasrallah, Says Presidential Deadlock Requires Lebanese Consensus

The special envoy of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Morteza Sarmadi, met during a short visit to Lebanon Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, stressing that the presidential stalemate in Lebanon could only be resolved by the Lebanese.

“Such a local matter could only be resolved by the rival parties and the key issue is consensus among the Lebanese,” Sarmadi said in an interview published in As Safir newspaper published on Friday.

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Rifi to Raad: Those Criticizing Usurpation of Yemenis' Will Have Condemned themselves in Syria

Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi criticized Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc chief MP Mohmmed Raad's response to Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri over the developments in Yemen and Iran's role in the region, reported the daily al-Mustaqbal on Friday.

He said: “Those speaking against the usurpation of the will of the Yemeni people have condemned themselves in supporting the actions of the Syrian regime, which has destroyed its cities and villages on its residents.”

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PLO: Palestinians Back Joint Yarmuk Operation with Syria Army

A group of 14 Palestinian factions said Thursday they backed a joint military operation with the Syrian government to expel Islamic State group jihadists from the Yarmuk camp in southern Damascus.

After a meeting of the factions in the Syrian capital, Palestine Liberation Organization official Ahmed Majdalani said the groups supported a coordinated military effort in the camp.

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U.N. Vaccinates Syrian Refugee Animals in Lebanon against Goat Plague

The U.N. has launched an emergency vaccination campaign against lumpy skin disease and goat plague among animals brought to Lebanon by refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, a report said Thursday.

Some of the 1.5 million refugees have brought with them large numbers of un-vaccinated sheep, goats, cattle and other animals, raising concerns over the spread of high impact animal diseases, the U.N.'s food agency said.

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Little Sign of Progress at Moscow Syria Talks

Talks between the Syrian government and members of the tolerated opposition were set to end Thursday in Moscow with little sign of progress towards ending the spiraling conflict in the country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to open a final meeting between the two sides but opposition activists said there was little chance of a breakthrough after holding two days of talks with the delegation of Bashar Assad's regime.

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Sweden to Join U.S.-Led Coalition against Islamic State

Sweden will send up to 120 troops to northern Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish fighters as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, foreign minister Margot Wallstroem said Thursday.

"In the first stage 35 soldiers will take part in the mission but the number can rise to 120," Wallstroem told news agency TT.

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Mortar Fire Kills 11 Civilians in Egypt's Sinai

Mortar fire has killed 11 civilians, all but one of them women and children,  in Egypt's North Sinai, where the government is battling an Islamist insurgency, police and medics said Thursday.

The mortar rounds, which hit two houses in a village southeast of the provincial capital El-Arish Wednesday night, also wounded six people, the officials said without specifying who was behind the attack.

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