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Israel has started to free a group of Palestinian prisoners, whose release was agreed as part of the deal that allowed peace talks to resume.

A group of 26 prisoners, all convicted of attacks that happened before 1993, were driven out of a jail in minibuses with tinted windows.

Some are being taken straight to Gaza, others are going to the West Bank.

Israelis outraged over Palestinian prisoner release

Israelis outraged over Palestinian prisoner release

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators began direct talks two weeks ago for the first time in three years.

Another round of talks is due to begin in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Israel agreed to release the 26 long-term prisoners as the first of 104 Palestinian and Israeli Arab inmates to be freed over the next few months.

Relatives and friends of the freed prisoners have gathered on the frontier with Gaza.

The inmates were named by Israel’s prison service shortly after midnight on Sunday, giving victims’ families 48 hours to submit legal challenges to the High Court.

Earlier on Tuesday, the court rejected an appeal by a victims’ rights group that objected to the release of all of the prisoners.

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Israel has launched an air strike on the Gaza Strip for the first time since an eight-day war ended in a truce in November 2012.

According to Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza, aircraft bombed fields near the border and no-one was injured.

Israel has launched an air strike on the Gaza Strip for the first time since an eight-day war ended in a truce in November 2012

Israel has launched an air strike on the Gaza Strip for the first time since an eight-day war ended in a truce in November 2012

The Israeli move comes after a Palestinian rocket attack on Israel on Tuesday which also caused no injuries.

Israel and Hamas have been observing an Egyptian-mediated truce after last November’s fighting.

The Israeli military confirmed the air strikes, saying it had targeted “terror sites” and was “in response to rocket fire”.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the air strike was near the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya and came after militants in Gaza fired two mortar shells into the western Negev desert.

Since the truce came into effect, Israel has eased restrictions on allowing building materials into the Gaza Strip, imposed when Hamas came to power there in 2007.

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President Barack Obama has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a historical visit to the West Bank.

Barack Obama has said that the US is “deeply committed” to creating a sovereign state of Palestine.

Speaking after talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Barack Obama said Israeli settlement activity was not “appropriate for peace”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry would, the president added, devote time and energy trying to bring the two sides closer.

Mahmoud Abbas said the two men had held “good and useful” talks in Ramallah.

However, Palestinian expectations of Barack Obama’s visit have been low, analysts say.

President Barack Obama has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a historical visit to the West Bank

President Barack Obama has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a historical visit to the West Bank

On his first visit to Israel as US president on Wednesday, Barack Obama vowed strong support for the country.

At talks on Wednesday, Barack Obama and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict

Speaking in Jerusalem, President Barack Obama said a central element of securing a lasting peace in the Middle East “must be a strong and secure Jewish state where its security concerns are met, alongside a sovereign and independent Palestinian state”.

Two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday morning, Israeli officials say, but there were no reports of anyone being hurt. A further two rockets fired from Gaza reportedly fell inside Gaza itself.

Mahmoud Abbas condemned “violence against civilians, whatever its source, including the firing of rockets”, according to a Palestinian spokesperson.

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Barack Obama’s armored limo broke down on the way to Tel Aviv airport as the US president is making a historic visit to Israel.

The custom General Motors Cadillac limo was relegated to a pick up truck after the driver accidentally put gas in the engine instead of diesel.

President Barack Obama arrived in Tel Aviv Wednesday afternoon local time, and earlier that morning, the limo that was designated to his hotel was unable to move after the driver made the silly mistake.

Local news reports allege that it was the President’s limo that was shipped over specially from Washington that broke down so he was forced to use the second vehicle that they brought over from the U.S.

The limo was pictured by local station 24 Hour News when it was on the back of a flatbed truck.

Since the car was not able to take him from the airport, thankfully the president was always scheduled to leave the airport via helicopter in order to avoid passing through the Palestinian checkpoints that interrupt the route from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem.

The US Secret Service put out a statement about the incident, saying that it was a situation where it pays for them to be prepared.

“One of our protective vehicles experienced mechanical problems in Israel earlier today. This is why we bring multiple vehicles and a mechanic on all trips,” said Edwin Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service.

“Situations like this are planned for extensively by our advance teams so that the President’s itinerary is unaffected by these types of issues.”

They did not confirm that whether or not the driver used gas or diesel, and if that was the cause of the malfunction.

Barack Obama’s armored limo broke down on the way to Tel Aviv airport as the US president is making a historic visit to Israel

Barack Obama’s armored limo broke down on the way to Tel Aviv airport as the US president is making a historic visit to Israel

Barack Obama’s first stop was to Israeli President Shimon Peres’ house, and after planting a ceremonial tree and giving brief scripted remarks, he drove off in an armored limo.

Given the Secret Service statement, it appears that the President drove off in the second limo while the American technician worked on the first.

President Barack Obama started off the trip by apologizing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he was overheard saying: “It’s embarrassing, our entourage. My wife, Michelle, teases me mercilessly.”

The US president isn’t kidding about the fact that he travels with a crew: the Israeli government issued a press kit that reports Barack Obama has a 600-person entourage, and they will occupy all 233 rooms in the King David Hotel during their stay.

By comparison, Madonna has a 200-person entourage when she tours, meaning that the President has a crew three-times the size of the best-known Material Girl.

Barack Obama must enjoy hanging out with a familiar group, as he reportedly agreed to do a cameo in the upcoming movie version of the show Entourage.

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Israel has confirmed it imprisoned Prisoner X, an Australian-Israeli man under a false identity, for security reasons, and that he died in custody.

The justice ministry did not name the man – previously known as Prisoner X, and recently identified by Australian media as Ben Zygier – but said his family was notified of his detention.

Ben Zygier was held following a court order and his rights were upheld, it added.

The ministry also stated that the man killed himself inside his cell in 2010.

On Wednesday, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr ordered a review of how diplomats handled the detention of Mr Zygier, who is believed to have worked for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.

On Thursday, Bob Carr told a parliamentary committee that Canberra had been informed of Ben Zygier’s detention in February 2010.

Australia was told through intelligence channels that he had been detained “in relation to serious offences under Israeli national security legislation”.

He “would be treated in accordance with his lawful rights as an Israeli citizen”, Australia was told. No request for consular support was received, Bob Carr said.

Speculation about the existence and identity of Prisoner X has been rife since reports of his death broke in the Israeli media two years ago, despite strict reporting restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities.

The statement published by the Israeli justice ministry on Wednesday evening gave only a few new details about the case.

“For security reasons, the prisoner was held under a pseudonym, but his family was notified of the arrest immediately,” it said.

“The prisoner was held in jail under a warrant issued by a court. The proceedings were overseen by senior officials in the justice ministry and he was duly represented in all the proceedings against him.”

The statement added that he “was found dead in his cell two years ago” and that a closed-door inquiry into the death was ordered at the time.

The justice ministry said the investigation concluded six weeks ago that the cause of the prisoner’s death was suicide, but that the judge recommended that the state “pursue a negligence investigation”.

“National security prevents the release of any other details in this case.”

Israel has confirmed it imprisoned Prisoner X, an Australian-Israeli man under a false identity, for security reasons, and that he died in custody

Israel has confirmed it imprisoned Prisoner X, an Australian-Israeli man under a false identity, for security reasons, and that he died in custody

The identity of Prisoner X was revealed on Tuesday by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which named him as Ben Zygier.

According to its report, he was an active member of Melbourne’s Jewish community before emigrating to Israel in 2000 and serving in the army.

At the time of his death, Ben Zygier was 34 and married to an Israeli woman and had two children.

He is known to have gone by the Hebrew name of Ben Alon in Israel and also carried an Australian passport bearing the name Ben Allen. Fairfax said he had also called himself Benjamin Burrows.

The reason for Ben Zygier’s arrest and imprisonment in Israel is not known, but ABC said it understood he had been recruited by Mossad.

Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that months before he was arrested in Israel, Ben Zygier was being investigated by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) on suspicion of fraudulently using his passport for espionage purposes.

Ben Zygier was found hanged in a cell on 15 December 2010, months after he “disappeared”, and his body was flown to Melbourne for burial the following week, ABC added.

When the story about Prisoner X first emerged, Israeli media said the unidentified man was being held incommunicado at Ayalon Prison, a maximum security facility in central Israel.

ABC said his cell was fitted with surveillance cameras designed to prevent suicide.

The reason for his detention was not disclosed and his identification was so secret that even his guards did not know who he was, it reported.

An Israeli opposition MP said he agreed that the government’s actions were likely to have been in the interests of national security.

“In general I understand it, but practically I think the government took some steps that may irritate anyone who cares for freedom of expression,” Nachman Shai of the Labour party added.

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Israel has authorized the construction of 3,000 more housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

It is also speeding up the processing of 1,000 planning permissions.

The Palestinian Authority has said it will not return to peace talks without a freeze in settlement building.

The decision comes a day after a vote at the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians’ status at the UN to that of non-member observer state.

According to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, some of the new units will be between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

Plans to build settlements in the area, known as E1, are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who say the development will cut the West Bank in two, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.

The move is a first indication of Israeli anger, less than 24 hours after the vote on Palestinian status was held at the UN.

The Palestinians may well have been expecting this – or something like it – but it is a reminder that the gulf between the two on the settlement issue remains huge.

Earlier this month, a paper by the Israeli foreign ministry described the Palestinians’ pushing for the vote as “crossing a red line that will require the harshest Israeli response”.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the UN vote was “negative political theatre” that would “hurt peace”.

The General Assembly voted by 138-9 to recognize the Palestinians as a non-member observer state, with 41 states abstaining.

The Palestinians can now take part in UN debates and potentially join bodies like the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was the “last chance to save the two-state solution” with Israel.

Two decades of on-off negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank have failed to produce a permanent settlement, with the latest round of direct negotiations breaking down in 2010.

In January, several months of indirect “proximity talks” ended without any progress.

Palestinian negotiators insist that the building of Jewish settlements on occupied land must stop before they agree to resume direct talks.

Their Israeli counterparts say there can be no preconditions.

Mahmoud Abbas was much criticized by many Palestinians for remaining on the sidelines of the conflict between the militant Hamas movement and Israel earlier this month in Gaza.

Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi, who is leading mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, says he expects Israeli forces to end air strikes on Gaza later on Tuesday.

The comment came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to the region to support ceasefire efforts.

Israel says it has put plans for a land invasion of Gaza on hold.

But it has also told villagers in north, south and east of Gaza to move to central areas for their own safety.

Leaflets dropped in a number of villages say: “The Israel Defense Forces are not targeting any of you and they do not want to harm you or your families. For your safety we demand you to evacuate your houses immediately and move towards the centre of Gaza city.”

The conflict began last Wednesday when Israel killed a Hamas military leader, saying it wanted an end to rocket attacks from Gaza. More than 110 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed.

Tuesday has seen a reduced level of violence, correspondents say, even though Israel has conducted some strikes. One was a “direct hit” on two militants in northern Gaza, the Israeli military said.

It also said about 90 rockets had been fired from Gaza toward Israel, and that more than 50 had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. Five soldiers were wounded in one rocket attack, the military said, without specifying the location.

Local journalists say they saw Hamas fighters summarily execute six people on Tuesday afternoon for being Israeli informers.

One eyewitness told AFP news agency: “Gunmen in a minibus pulled up in the neighborhood, pushed six men out and shot them without leaving the vehicle.”

President Mohammed Mursi said Israel’s “aggression” against Gaza would end on Tuesday and Egypt’s mediation efforts would produce “positive results” shortly, the official Mena news agency reported.

The content of the Egyptian plan is not known, but both Israel and Hamas have presented conditions.

Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi, who is leading mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, says he expects Israeli forces to end air strikes on Gaza later on Tuesday

Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi, who is leading mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, says he expects Israeli forces to end air strikes on Gaza later on Tuesday

Israel’s demands include no hostile fire of any kind from Gaza and international efforts to prevent Hamas from rearming, while Hamas is demanding an end to the blockade on Gaza and “Israel’s assassinations”.

Israeli troops are massed along the border, raising fears of a ground offensive similar to that of 2008-09. An Israeli spokesman said: “Israel wants talks to succeed but we’re prepared to go into Gaza.”

In a rare appearance, top Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif said: “The enemy should know that it will pay a heavy price for its heinous crimes against our people.”

He added that a ground invasion would “be the starting point for a new phase of the struggle of liberation”.

Hillary Clinton is due in Israel for crisis talks later on Tuesday. She will underline that “the best way to solve this is through diplomacy”, said Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes.

During the previous night, the Israeli military said it had carried out about 100 strikes, mainly on smuggling tunnels and underground rocket-launching facilities. Hamas officials say seven people were killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met Arab League Chief Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo on Tuesday, before heading for talks in Israel.

“I’m here to appeal personally for an end to the violence and to offer my ongoing efforts to achieve a ceasefire,” Ban Ki-moon told a joint news conference in Cairo.

Ban Ki-moon warned against a ground operation in Gaza.

“Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk,” he said.

Egypt has been trying to broker a ceasefire with the help of Qatar and Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Arab foreign ministers are expected to visit Gaza on Tuesday.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning a decisive victory in general elections. Israel withdrew from the strip in 2005 but maintains a blockade around it.

Israel, as well as the United States and the European Union, regards Hamas as a terrorist organization.

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Fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza appears to have calmed after an unofficial truce was reached following days of violence.

Israel said a mortar shell landed in the south of the country on Thursday after no reports of exchanges fighting.

Five Israelis have been wounded since Tuesday amid some of the heaviest barrage of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza in months.

Six Palestinian militants were killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

Schools were closed on both sides of the border for fear of more attacks, though some reopened in parts of southern Israel on Thursday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to strike hard at the militants if attacks continued.

“We didn’t ask for this escalation and didn’t initiate it,” he said on Wednesday.

“But if it continues, we are prepared to embark on a far more extensive and penetrating operation.”

If previous ceasefires are anything to go by, there may well be breaches by both sides before calm is fully restored.

Hamas will have to stop other armed groups in Gaza from launching attacks, and the underlying conflict between Palestinian militants and Israel remains; any truce is unlikely to be permanent.

On Wednesday, more than 70 rockets were launched into southern Israel, injuring four people, two critically, according to the Israeli military.

In response, Israeli aircraft and tanks targeted rocket-launching sites in northern Gaza.

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, confirmed it had been involved in firing dozens of rockets and mortars into Israel.

In a statement, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades and a smaller Gaza-based militant group, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), said: “These holy missions come in response to the repeated, continuous crimes of the enemy against our people.”

The violence comes during a visit to the region by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, to try to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.

Catherine Ashton is due to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad on Thursday, a day after holding talks with Israeli leaders.

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At least 13 Egyptian policemen have been killed by unidentified gunmen who attacked a checkpoint on the Egyptian-Israeli border, officials say.

Israel said the attackers, who were in two vehicles, then tried to smash their way across the border.

At least 13 Egyptian policemen have been killed by unidentified gunmen who attacked a checkpoint on the Egyptian-Israeli border

At least 13 Egyptian policemen have been killed by unidentified gunmen who attacked a checkpoint on the Egyptian-Israeli border

The Israeli military said one vehicle was destroyed from the air, while the other blew up at the crossing.

It is not clear who carried out the border raid. Egyptian state television blamed Islamist militants.