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Monday, Dec 22nd

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Court sentences Israeli cult leader to 30 years

Israeli cult leaderAn Israeli court sentenced a convicted polygamist and cult leader to 30 years in prison Tuesday.

Goel Ratzon was found guilty of rape, incest and other offenses in September, but acquitted of enslavement charges.

His sentencing in Tel Aviv District Court ended a saga that began in 2010 when details of Ratzon's cult first emerged.

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Netanyahu vows to continue building Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem

NatanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Monday to continue building Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, despite stiff international criticism and rising tensions between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in the contested city.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu's government announced that it would advance plans to build about 1,000 Jewish-only housing units in east Jerusalem — an attempt, Palestinians said, to further cement Israel’s control over the city, creating “facts on the ground” that would keep Jerusalem under Israeli authority in a future peace deal.

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Twenty-four European banks fail financial stress tests

European Central BankOne in five European banks have failed crucial tests of their financial strength, leaving a €25bn (£19.6bn) capital hole in the continent’s banking system at a time of renewed fears that the five-year long eurozone crisis may be flaring up again.

European banking regulators published the test results on Sunday. The findings put particular focus on Italian banks – nine of which failed and contributed €9.4bn to the overall shortfall.

No UK banks failed although they are being subjected to fresh tests by the Bank of England which will publish the results on 16 December.

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Afghan mullah jailed for rape of 10-year-old girl

Mullah convicted of child rapeAn Afghan court has sentenced a mullah to 20 years in prison after finding the religious teacher guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl.

The sentence, passed by a Kabul judge on Saturday, has been welcomed by family as well as women’s support groups as a rare victory in their fight for justice for female victims of sex crimes. Rape is often treated as adultery in Afghanistan, and victims can face prison themselves.

Hassina Sarwari, who runs a shelter for women in northern Kunduz province, where the rape took place, said on Sunday that if the trial had not been transferred to Kabul the result would probably have been very different.

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Israeli president visits Arab town, massacre site

RivlinIsrael's new ceremonial president visited the site of a 1956 massacre Sunday, the first Israeli head of state to do so, as part of his outreach campaign to the country's Arab minority.

Reuven Rivlin became president in July, replacing Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, and has since made improving relations between Jews and Arabs a top focus of his administration. By visiting Kfar Kassem, Rivlin became the first president to attend a memorial ceremony for the 47 Arab civilians shot by Israeli border policemen on the first day of the Israel-Egypt war in 1956.

Rivlin said the massacre was a "sorrowful chapter" in Israeli history, calling it a crime for which Israel has rightfully apologized.

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Dozens killed in attack on Egypt army post

Egyptian army post attackedAn attack on an army checkpoint in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Friday killed at least 25 people, according to state media, making it one of the deadliest attacks on security forces since violence spiked following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi last year.

Two senior military officials said a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into the checkpoint at Karm al-Qawadeis, located in the peninsula’s north. But a top military official contradicted those claims, saying the checkpoint was struck by a mortar round and rocket-propelled grenades, which hit a tank carrying explosives and ammunition, which caused a secondary explosion. A fourth official confirmed that account but said a suicide bomber also targeted the post.

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Boko Haram 'abducts dozens more women and girls' in Nigeria

Boko HaramDozens more women and girls have been abducted by Nigerian terror group Boko Haram a day after an apparent ceasefire was announced, it was reported today.

Nigeria's military and president last week raised hopes that 200 schoolgirls snatched by the Islamic militants in April would be returned as a result of the truce.  But fighting has continued and there is still no word as yet on the whereabouts of the teenagers.

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