By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A 12-hour humanitarian truce went into effect on Saturday after Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip agreed to a U.N. request for a pause in fighting and efforts proceeded to secure a long-term ceasefire moved ahead. The Gaza Health Ministry said 18 members of a single family were killed by Israeli tank shelling in the southern Gaza Strip shortly before the truce took effect at 8 a.m. (1 a.m. EDT). Israel's military said it would hold fire for 12 hours, but would press on with its search for tunnels used by militants. A spokesman for the Islamist group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, said all Palestinian factions would abide by the brief truce.
By Adrian Croft and Barbara Lewis BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union reached outline agreement on Friday to impose the first economic sanctions on Russia over its behavior in Ukraine but scaled back their scope to exclude technology for the crucial gas sector. The EU also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on the chiefs of Russia's FSB security service and foreign intelligence service and a number of other top Russian officials, saying they had helped shape Russian government policy that threatened Ukraine's sovereignty and national integrity. FSB director Alexander Bortnikov and Mikhail Fradkov, a former prime minister who now heads the foreign intelligence service, were among 15 Russians or Ukrainians and 18 companies and other organizations named in the EU's latest sanctions list.
By Chine Labbé and Tiemoko Diallo PARIS/BAMAKO (Reuters) - Poor weather was the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight in the West African country of Mali that killed all 118 people on board, French officials said on Friday. "French soldiers who are on the ground have started the first investigations," French President Francois Hollande told reporters. An earlier count of 51 French nationals among the dead was also raised to 54 by the French Foreign Ministry to include those with dual nationality. French, Malian and Dutch soldiers from a U.N. peacekeeping force (MINUSMA) secured the crash site, which lies about 80 km (50 miles) south of the northern Malian town of Gossi, near the Burkina Faso border.
By Natalia Zinets KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's prime minister has launched what promises to be a bitter election campaign that could divide pro-Western parties and complicate their efforts to fight pro-Russian rebels in the country's east. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, a key interlocutor of the West during months of turmoil, announced on Thursday he would quit, saying parliament was betraying Ukraine's army and people by blocking reforms supported by Western backers. His move, following the exit of two parties from the ruling coalition, amounted to the start of a campaign for seats in a legislature still packed with former allies of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, ousted by protests in February. "History will not forgive us," Yatseniuk told parliament on Thursday, in what analysts said was the first campaign speech for the party led by Yulia Tymoshenko, a rival of President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected to replace Yanukovich in May. Pro-Western political forces in Ukraine have been bitterly divided almost continuously since the country won independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The European Union announced Saturday it had widened its sanctions against Russia over its role in conflict-torn Ukraine to include the heads of intelligence services. The director of the FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, and the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Mikhail Fradkov are on the new list of 15 people and 18 entities targeted by an asset freeze and visa bans, the EU's Official Journal said. Also on the list is Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Bortnikov and Fradkov, both members of the Russian Security Council, are included for being "involved in shaping the policy of the Russian government threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," the Official Journal said.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan off-spinner Dilruwan Perera captured two wickets in three deliveries to spoil South Africa's recovery on the third morning of the second cricket test, holding the visitors to 163-5 at lunch on Saturday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe struck a series of energy deals with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the start of a five-country Latin American tour. Abe, whose visit to the region comes on the heels of Chinese President Xi Jinping's, met Pena Nieto at the presidential palace for talks that ended with the signing of a raft of deals. The new agreements included one between Mexican state oil firm Pemex and Japan's development bank, and another between Pemex and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation.
Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate has released a video of a US suicide bomber who blew himself up at an army post in the northwest of the country. Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, alias Abu Hurayra al-Amriki, was believed to be the first American national to carry out such an attack in Syria's more than three-year-old war. Hopefully it will be in heaven," Abu Hurayra says in broken Arabic in the 17-minute video posted on YouTube on Friday by Al-Nusra Front. The footage, released via Al-Nusra's official channel Al-Manara Al-Baydaa, also shows Abu Hurayra saying: "I came to Syria without money to buy a rifle or a pouch.
Top UN aid chiefs have begged donors to increase efforts to stave off looming famine in South Sudan, where a third of the population are in crisis after months of war. Nearly a million children aged under five face acute malnutrition, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN children's agency UNICEF said in a joint statement released late Friday, after their top directors visited the impoverished nation. The UN Security Council said Friday the food crisis is now the worst in the world, as it called on countries who had pledged 618 million dollars in aid to make good on their promises. "If we are to rapidly expand our operations and save more lives, then we need more resources, and the international community has to act now," WFP chief Ertharin Cousin said.
The Israeli military and the militant Palestinian Hamas were set on Saturday to start a 12-hour ceasefire at 8:00 am (0500 GMT), but a longer-term truce remained elusive. Hamas said that it and other militant groups in Gaza had reached "national consensus on a humanitarian truce" and Israel later confirmed that it would observe what it called "a humanitarian window in the Gaza Strip". A statement from the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza warned people not to approach bombed-out buildings and militant bases for fear of "explosive objects". Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking from Cairo, said that efforts to broker a longer halt to the fighting had so far yet to bear fruit.
A 12-hour humanitarian truce between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group entered into effect on Saturday, as top diplomats pressed efforts to secure a longer-term ceasefire. The fragile ceasefire came into force at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) after Hamas and the Israeli military announced their consent in the early hours of Saturday morning. Hamas said it and other militant groups in Gaza had reached "national consensus on a humanitarian truce", and Israel later confirmed it would observe what it called "a humanitarian window in the Gaza Strip". The Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza advised people not to approach bombed-out buildings and militant bases for fear of "explosive objects".
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel and Hamas began a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza Saturday after the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed to produce a longer truce aimed at ending nearly three weeks of fighting.