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Thursday, Aug 21st

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UN calls for Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Gaza bombardmentThe UN Security Council has called for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, as Palestinian deaths continue to mount. All 15 members approved a statement calling for calm and peace talks.

At least 133 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its operation five days ago, Palestinian sources say.  Israel said it was hit by about 90 rockets on Saturday, and several were intercepted over Tel Aviv after Hamas said it would target the city.

It is the first time since Israel's offensive began that the UN Security Council has issued a statement, with members previously divided on their response.

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Expansion of ‘secret’ facility in Iraq suggests closer U.S.-Kurd ties

CIA in IraqA supposedly secret but locally well-known CIA station on the outskirts of Irbil’s airport is undergoing rapid expansion as the United States considers whether to engage in a war against Islamist militants who’ve seized control of half of Iraq in the past month.

Western contractors hired to expand the facility and a local intelligence official confirmed the construction project, which is visible from the main highway linking Irbil to Mosul, the city whose fall June 9 triggered the Islamic State’s sweep through northern and central Iraq. Residents around the airport say they can hear daily what they suspect are American drones taking off and landing at the facility.

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Israel strikes Gaza mosque as death toll tops 120

Gaza mosque hitIsraeli airstrikes targeting Hamas in Gaza hit a mosque and a center for the disabled where two women were killed Saturday, raising the Palestinian death toll from the offensive to more than 120, Palestinian officials said.

The Israeli military said the mosque concealed rockets like those used in the barrage of nearly 700 fired by Gaza militants at Israel over the five-day offensive, while saying it was investigating claims about the other sites hit. However, the strikes in the densely populated Gaza Strip show the challenge facing Israel as it considers a ground operation in the region and potential further dangers posed to civilians.

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M6.8 quake hits Japan, triggering small tsunami

Japan earthquakieA strong earthquake hit off Fukushima Prefecture early Saturday, triggering a small tsunami and injured at least one person.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the 6.8-magnitude quake struck 10 kilometers below the sea surface off the coast of Fukushima at 4:22 a.m. The quake shook buildings in Tokyo, about 250 kilometers southwest of the epicenter.

A 20-centimeter tsunami reached the coast of Ishinomaki Ayukawa and Ofunato, about 50 minutes after the quake. Smaller waves were observed at several other locations along the coast. Changes to the shoreline were not visible on television footage of NHK public broadcaster.

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Israeli strikes kill more Palestinians as death toll surpasses 100

Gaza deathsIsraeli airstrikes on Gaza killed four more Palestinians before dawn on Friday, raising the death toll from the four-day offensive to at least 102, including dozens of civilians, while a Palestinian rocket hit a fuel tanker at an Israeli gas station, causing a blaze. The developments came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference Friday that Israel will continue its offensive until rocket fire out of Gaza is halted.

"I will end it when our goals are realized. And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet," Netanyahu said, brushing off a question about possible cease-fire efforts.

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At Least 85 Palestinians Dead In 3-Day Offensive

Gaza deathsIsrael dramatically escalated its aerial assault targeting hundreds of Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip Thursday as Palestinians reported the strikes also hit a home and a beachside cafe, raising the total number of people killed in this week's offensive to at least 85. Israel's missile defense system also once again intercepted rockets fired by Gaza militants at the country's two largest cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The Israeli military said it had struck a total of some 500 targets throughout the day, focusing on underground tunnel networks and rocket launching sites. In all, the military said it has hit some 860 sites since the operation started Tuesday.

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Germany asks top U.S. intelligence official to leave over spy scandal

US embassy in GermanyGermany asked the top U.S. intelligence official at the Berlin embassy on Thursday to leave the country, a highly unusual step reflecting the deep anger within Angela Merkel's government at the discovery of two suspected U.S. spies within a week.

The scandal has plunged ties between Germany and one of its closest allies to a new low following last year's revelations from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden about widespread surveillance of Germans, including Merkel.

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