By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli forces shelled a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians in the northern Gaza strip, the Gaza health ministry said on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and raising the conflict's death toll to nearly 750. Israel Radio said, without citing a source, that most of those killed at the United Nations school were children. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said that as well as the 15 dead, another 200 people were wounded in the attack. More than 140,000 Palestinians have fled 17 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants, many of them seeking shelter in buildings run by the U.N. Refugee Works Agency (UNWRA).
By Hamid Ould Ahmed ALGIERS (Reuters) - An Air Algerie flight crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board, an Algerian aviation official said. There were few clear indications of what might have happened to the aircraft, or whether there were casualties, but Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said it asked to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area. "I can confirm that it has crashed," the Algerian official told Reuters, declining to be identified or give any details about what had happened to the aircraft on its way north. Niger security sources said planes were flying over the border region with Mali to search for the flight.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the departure of two parties from a parliamentary coalition on Thursday, opening the way for him to call a new election and give Ukrainians "a full reset" of power. Two Ukrainian parties said they had left the majority coalition in parliament to allow a new election and clear what one politician called "Moscow agents" from the chamber. Politicians and activists have complained that while Ukraine has a new president, it has yet to elect a new parliament since the toppling of pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovich in February, and accuse his supporters of hampering its work. Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the nationalist Svoboda party, told parliament: "We believe that in the current situation, such a parliament which protects state criminals, Moscow agents, which refuses to strip immunity from those people who are working for the Kremlin, should not exist." The Udar (Punch) party of former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko - which along with Svoboda, the Batkivshchyna party and other deputies formed the majority coalition - also announced it was leaving the coalition.
By Faith Hung TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan authorities launched an investigation on Thursday into the crash of a TransAsia Airways turboprop plane in which 48 people were killed with the weather expected to be a factor in the inquiry. The plane, a 70-seat ATR 72, crashed on Wednesday evening near the runway while trying to land on the small island of Penghu, west of Taiwan island, after a typhoon had passed earlier in the day. The leaders of rivals China and Taiwan both offered their condolences over the deaths. Taiwan's civil aviation authorities said the weather had been suitable for flying.
Iraq's parliament elected senior Kurdish lawmaker Fouad Masoum as president on Thursday, a long-awaited step in creating a new government capable of countering a Sunni Muslim insurgency. Iraq's politicians have been in deadlock over forming a new government since an election in April. Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ruled since the election in a caretaker capacity, defying demands from the Sunnis and Kurds that he step aside for a less divisive figure. Critics say Maliki is a polarising figure who has stirred up sectarian tensions that have worsened since Sunni insurgents swept through north and west Iraq last month, seizing large swathes of territory and declaring a "caliphate".
By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - Almost 100,000 boat people have made the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe this year, a roughly 60 percent increase on the whole of last year, and about 800 have died in the attempt, the U.N. refugee agency said on Thursday. The exodus has surged this year, as far more migrants put their lives in the hands of smugglers or unseaworthy vessels in a desperate attempt to reach Europe. More than 75,000 made the trip in the first six months of the year, landing up in Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta, the UNHCR agency said. The UNHCR also said that this year the numbers are accelerating: 21,000 have reached Italy since the beginning of July.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani discussed Wednesday with FIFA president Sepp Blatter the preparations for the 2022 football World Cup which the Gulf state hosts. The FIFA website said discussions also included reforms to labour conditions in the wealthy state which has come under international pressure to clamp down on violations of the rights of migrant workers, who are mostly Asians. "Qatar takes its responsibility as hosts seriously," said Blatter after the meeting, according to the FIFA website, adding that Qatar is committed to improve labour conditions. "It was great to see his (emir's)and Qatar's commitment to use the 2022 FIFA World Cup to achieve positive social change and to promote the host country and region," Blatter said.
The decision by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to curtail cooperation with Russia is unacceptable and harmful to all parties, Russia's ambassador to Britain Alexander Yakovenko, said on Thursday. The EBRD said on Wednesday that its board had given "clear guidance" it would not approve new investments in Russia, traditionally its biggest recipient.
SWANSEA, Wales (AP) — Ecuadorean winger Jefferson Montero has signed a four-year deal with Swansea for an undisclosed amount. Montero began training with the club immediately following his physical on Thursday.
ROME (AP) — Pope Francis met privately Thursday with a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, blessing the woman as she cradled her infant born just weeks ago in prison.
Ukraine's largest steelmaker Metinvest said its Avdiivka coke plant had resumed working at full capacity after being hit by artillery fire and warned of the economic risks posed by the conflict in the country's east. "I can say without exaggeration that the combat operations have threatened not only the Avdiivka coke plant but also the entire Ukrainian economy," Avdiivka Chief Executive Musa Magomedov said in an online statement. Avdiivka, which produces 40 percent of Ukraine's coke - a key ingredient in steelmaking - was hit by shelling late on Monday, forcing it to halve output, as Ukrainian forces pressed their military campaign against the separatists. Metinvest said coke production had returned to a normal level of around 7,200 tonnes per day, although the facility was still experiencing problems with water and electricity supply.
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi lawmakers elected a veteran Kurdish politician as the nation's new president on Thursday, hours after an attack on a prison convoy killed dozens of people, brutally underscoring the challenges faced by the country's leaders as they struggle to form a new government.
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — War literally came to Alexander Litvinenko's living room, when a missile punched a gaping hole into the wall of his ninth-floor apartment. The 53-year-old college philosophy teacher had just stepped into his study to check the news online, barely escaping death.
BERLIN (AP) — A lawyer for families of alleged victims of a suspected Nazi death camp guard who died this week before he could be extradited for trial says German investigators should have acted more quickly to bring charges.
KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — Two military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster departed for the Netherlands Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash scene which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.
Church properties have been bulldozed and seized in a climate of growing harassment of minority Christians in Islamist-run Sudan since the south's 2011 independence, its council of churches said. Kori Elramla Kori Kuku, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, told AFP that harassment has been on the rise ever since the separation three years ago of South Sudan, whose population follow mainly Christian and traditional beliefs. A death sentence issued in May to a pregnant Sudanese Christian woman convicted of apostasy from Islam drew worldwide attention to the issue of religious freedom in Sudan. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag took refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum after a higher court annulled her conviction.
An Air Algerie plane with more than 110 people on board including French and Spanish nationals went missing Thursday during a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers, company sources and officials said. Algerian radio said 51 French citizens and 26 from Burkina Faso were among the 116 passengers on the plane which dropped off the radar as it overflew northern Mali. France's Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said that top civil aviation officials were holding an emergency meeting and a crisis cell had been set up. "The plane disappeared at Gao (in Mali), 500 kilometres (300 miles) from the Algerian border.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Gunmen riding on a motorcycle opened fire and killed two Finnish women aid workers in the western Afghan city of Herat on Thursday, officials said, the latest in a series of attacks on foreign civilians that has rattled aid workers, contractors and journalists.
OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - The passenger list of a missing Air Algerie flight included 50 French citizens, the airline's representative in Burkina Faso told a news conference in Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said the Air Algerie flight that was en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers had asked to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area. (Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)
The retiring Mahela Jayawardene showed what Sri Lanka would be missing as he smashed an unbeaten 140 on the first day of the series-deciding second Test against South Africa on Thursday. Jayawardene, 37, came in to bat when Sri Lanka were reeling at 16-2 but the stylish right-hander batted through for more that six hours to take his side to 305-5 at stumps. This was Jayawardene's 11th century at the ground, the most by any batsman at a single venue. He also joined India's Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara of the West Indies at tied fifth on the list of highest Test century makers, becoming the highest run-getter for Sri Lanka in the process with 11,646 runs.
A Sudanese Christian woman whose death sentence for renouncing Islam sparked a global outcry that eventually led to an acquittal, met Pope Francis on Thursday after arriving in Italy en route to the United States. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag and her family were received by the Argentine pontiff at his home for a 30-minute meeting in which he thanked her for her "courageous testament of faith" and her "tenacity", the Vatican said in a statement. Ishag and her American husband Daniel Wani in turn thanked Francis for the "great support and comfort" they had taken from "the pope's and many other believers' prayers." The family flew into a military airport in Rome early Thursday and were greeted by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, as well as Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.
By Paul Mooney and Thin Lei Win INN DIN Myanmar (Reuters) - Visitors to the medical facility in one of Myanmar's poorest and most remote regions are greeted by a padlocked gate and a sign reading: "Clinic closed until further notice." A vehicle that used to ferry around doctors and patients parked next to the neat compound of bamboo and brick buildings in the western state of Rakhine is covered in thick dust. Since international aid groups were forced out of the area in February and March, members of the minority Muslim Rohingya community who relied on them say basic health care services have all but disappeared. Worst affected are those in Northern Rakhine State (NRS), home to most of Myanmar's 1.3 million Rohingya who are stalked by sickness and malnourishment and as yet untouched by reforms under a semi-civilian government which took power in 2011.
HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Eighteen children were killed Thursday when a train crashed into their school bus at an unmanned railroad crossing in southern India, police said. The bus driver also died while another 20 children ages 7 to 14 were injured and hospitalized, 15 of them in critical condition, said Telangana state education minister G. Jagdishwar Reddy.
SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Italy has proposed an additional package of sanctions against Russia that it will present to European Union ambassadors on Thursday, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said. "Italy insists that sanctions be widened, to have a package that will include additional sanctions against Russian citizens and firms," Mogherini, whose country took the rotating EU presidency in July, said after talks with Bosnian over officials. (Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Writing by Zoran Radosavljevic, editing by John Stonestreet)
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside.
Germany will step up its counter-espionage activity against some of its allies, government sources said on Thursday, after Berlin opened investigations into two men it suspects of spying for the United States. The scandal broke a year after allegations of widespread surveillance of Germans by U.S. agents who even bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, chilling ties with Washington. Two sources, who declined to be identified, confirmed a report in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, had agreed on the long-discussed step with the interior and foreign ministers. The "360 degree view" will allow German intelligence officers to watch U.S. and British agents on German soil and marks a shift from the previous focus on Russians, Chinese and Iranians, reported the Sueddeutsche.
Many French nationals are thought to be on board an Air Algerie jet which went missing after taking off from Burkina Faso for Algiers, Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said Thursday. "What we know is that it was an Air Algerie flight that was likely carrying many French people," he said. France has sent two Mirage 2000 jets to look for the plane that went missing less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou. At least 22 of the passengers were due to fly into France from Algiers, according to airport sources and border police.
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Europe's top human rights court ruled Thursday that Poland violated the rights of two terror suspects by allowing the CIA to secretly imprison them on Polish soil from 2002-2003 and facilitating the conditions under which they were subject to torture.
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali after heavy rains were reported, according to the plane's owner and government officials in France and Burkina Faso.
At least nine people were killed, including a baby, when an Israeli shell slammed into a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, an AFP correspondent said. A spokesman for the UN's Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA separately confirmed "multiple dead and injured" at the school in Beit Hanun, which was being used as a shelter by hundreds of Palestinians fleeing a major Israeli operation in the area. "Precise coordinates of the UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanun had been formally given to the Israeli army" Chris Gunness said on his Twitter account. Another UN official told AFP that at around 14:50 (1150 GMT) a shell had landed "in or near" the school, adding that UNRWA had tried to ask people to leave shortly beforehand, fearing it might be a target.
VIENNA (AP) — Federal and local law enforcement agencies in Austria are investigating an incident in which pro-Palestinian protesters stormed the pitch during a football match between an Israeli club and a French team.
Russia voiced concern on Thursday over a U.S. proposal to station elements of a missile defense shield in South Korea, saying the move could provoke an arms race in the region. The commander of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea last month said he had proposed deploying a THAAD advanced missile-defense system to the country to counter the threat of North Korea's weapons capabilities. "This development will inevitably have a negative impact on the strategic situation in the region and could provoke an arms race in Northeast Asia." Moscow, whose ties with Washington are at their lowest point since the Cold War over the Ukraine crisis, reiterated long-running opposition to U.S. plans to deploy a global missile shield, including in Europe, which it fears will weaken its nuclear arsenal and shift the balance of power. "It's impossible not to see that this (U.S. proposal) is really about the prospect of further expanding the geography of the deployment of the U.S. global missile defense system," the ministry said.
Fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels raged Thursday near the crash site of Malaysian flight MH17, as countries which lost 298 citizens in the disaster moved to deploy their police to secure the impact zone. The Dutch team leading the crash probe was stuck in Kiev, unable to join a handful of international investigators at the rebel-controlled site. Meanwhile, Ukraine's army reported four soldiers killed over the last 24 hours in its offensive to retake the eastern industrial heartland from the pro-Russian insurgents. Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday 45 kilometres (28 miles) from the crash site, just as the first bodies recovered from the fated flight were flown out to the Netherlands, which counts 193 citizens lost in the disaster.