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Rouhani Calls for Regional Response to IS Threat

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Tuesday for a regional response to the threat posed by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria rather than the deployment of troops from further afield.

"If countries in the region agree, they could eliminate anti-Islamic groups like Daesh and liberate thousands of men, women and children who have lost their homes," Rouhani told an anti-extremism conference in Tehran, using the Arabic acronym for IS. 

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Rights Groups Urge Release of Abducted Syria Activists

More than 50 Syrian and international rights organisations made a joint appeal Tuesday for the release of four Syrian activists abducted near Damascus a year ago.

Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem al-Hamadi were detained in the rebel-held area of Douma on December 9, 2013.

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Report: Nusra Captures Three Hizbullah Fighters in Qalamun

Al-Nusra Front reportedly captured three Hizbullah fighters in the border region of Qalamun in Syria, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported on Tuesday.

The daily identified the three Hizbullah members as Hassan Mansour, Ali al-Husseini and Mohammed Abbas.

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Army Kicks Off Military Operation on Outskirts of Arsal, Causing Casualties in Ranks of Militants

The Lebanese Army carried out precautionary military operations against posts controlled by gunmen on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal and the Lebanese al-Qalamoun region, the state-run National News Agency reported on Tuesday.

According to NNA, the military operation was carried out in the towns of Mar Tayba, Wadi Mira, al-Rahwa, Wadi al-Khayl and Wadi Hmeid.

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20 Australian Jihadists Killed in Syria, Iraq

Australia on Tuesday accused Islamic militants of using foreign fighters as "cannon fodder" and "propaganda tools" as it revealed 20 nationals have now been killed in Syria and Iraq.

More than 70 Australians are currently fighting in the two nations, the government has said, with several more deaths reported as coalition fighter planes pound Islamic State group positions.

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Muslims Denounce Convert who Threatened Canada

Canadian Muslims denounced a convert's call for more lone-wolf attacks in the country Monday, just weeks after two soldiers were recently killed in the first jihadist attacks on Canadian soil.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims condemned a video message from a Canadian jihadist fighter from the Islamic State group as "abhorrent and un-Islamic."

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U.N. Envoy Talks Aleppo Ceasefire Plan with Syria Rebels

U.N. peace envoy Staffan de Mistura met on Monday with Syrian opposition members to discuss his plan to "freeze" fighting in the country's war-ravaged second city Aleppo, his spokeswoman said.

"The talks started today at 11:00 am (0900 GMT) and lasted for eight hours with representatives from the main armed and non-armed groups," Juliette Touma told Agence France-Presse.

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Reports: Hamas Team in Iran for Talks on Ties

A delegation of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which controls Gaza arrived Monday for talks with Iranian officials on repairing ties, local media reported.

Tasnim news agency said the team was led by Hamas political bureau member Mohammed Nasr and included Ossama Hamdan, who is in charge of international relations.

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EU Counts on Intelligence Sharing to Stem Foreign Fighters' Flow to Syria

New European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in Turkey on Monday she hoped increased intelligence-sharing would help stop the flow of foreign fighters joining the ranks of Islamic State militants.

Mogherini was speaking after talks in Ankara on her first trip to Turkey since taking office.

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U.N. Appeals for $16.4 Billion for Aid Work in 2015

The U.N. appealed Monday for $16.4 billion (13.4 billion euros) to provide aid to nearly 60 million people worldwide next year, with almost half the amount aimed at helping victims of Syria's drawn-out conflict.

"The rising scale of need is outpacing our capacity to respond," warned United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, stressing that 2014 has been marked by a sharp rise in the number of people affected by violent conflicts.

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