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   Netanyahu pressured in Israel polls  -

Benjamin Netanyahu, the favourite to become Israel's next prime minister, is losing ground before the country's national elections, according to leading opinion polls.

   Torrential rain and snow have killed 40 this year; Severe rain in Morocco kills 24, forces evacuation  -

Heavy rains in Morocco have claimed 24 lives and forced 2,000 people to be evacuated over the past week, interior ministry officials said Saturday.

   Gaza rocket hits southern Israel  -

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip has landed in southern Israel, setting several cars on fire, the Israeli military has said.

   Iraq vote counting under way

Vote counting is under way after millions of Iraqis cast ballots in regional elections in the second major poll since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

   Olmert warns of 'severe' Gaza raids

Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, has vowed his country will deliver a "severe and disproportionate response" after Palestinian fighters fired rockets into southern Israel.

   US envoy holds talks with Saudis

The US Middle East envoy has arrived in the Saudi capital on the final leg of a regional tour aimed at reviving peace efforts, the Saudi official SPA news agency has reported.

   Egypt aims to cement Gaza ceasefire

Hamas and other Palestinian factions are in Cairo for talks with Egyptian and European mediators in an effort to cement the ceasefires that ended Israel's three-week war on the Gaza Strip.

   Hamas to pay victims of Gaza war

Hamas is set to hand out money to Gazans afflicted by Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip.The territory's government was due to start giving out the money, expected to total about $45m, on Sunday - a day after a Hamas committee was established to oversee relief efforts.

   Israel to shield Gaza war soldiers

Israel will give legal protection to soldiers who fought in the three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has said.

   Clashes follow Israeli 'cessation'

The Israeli military has continued its operation in the Gaza Strip, killing one civilian in Khan Younis and carrying out air raids in the north, just hours after the country's prime minister declared an end to hostilities.

   Israel shells UN school in Gaza

Two Palestinian boys have been killed after Israeli tank shells hit a UN-run school in Gaza - hours before Israel's security cabinet is expected to vote on a proposal for a unilateral ceasefire.

   Qatar, Mauritania cut Israel ties

Qatar and Mauritania have suspended economic and political ties with Israel in protest against the war in Gaza, Al Jazeera has learned.

   Death toll in Gaza exceeds 850

The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip has risen to 854 and more than 3,650 injured as the Israeli offensive entered its third week.

   Hamas: Gaza war an end to peace bid

Hamas has said that the Gaza war has put an end to chances of negotiations with Israel, calling on Arabs to pressure Tel Aviv to cease its attacks on the Gaza Strip.

   Israel 'using white phosphorus'

Human Rights Watch has called on Israel to stop using white phosphorus which it says has been used in military operations in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

   Civilians die in Gaza fighting

Heavy fighting is raging in the Gaza Strip between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters after Israel launched its ground offensive on the territory.

   World leaders condemn Israel

As international protests against the offensive in the Gaza Strip continue, Israel also faced a fresh round of condemnations from world leaders.

   Suicide blast kills dozens in Iraq

At least 35 civilians have been killed and 65 wounded in a suicide attack at a shrine in northwestern Baghdad, Iraqi government officials said.

   Gaza rockets hit southern Israel

Eight rockets and mortars fired from Gaza have hit towns in southern Israel, with one house being severely damaged in Sderot, Israeli rescue service workers have said.

   Clashes erupt in Israeli-run prison

At least seven Palestinian detainees and three Israeli guards have been injured in a prison riot, according to Yaron Zamir, a prison service spokesman.

   Bush: Progress made in Mideast

George Bush, the US president, has insisted that a "good deal" of progress has been made in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, despite the failure of both sides to reach a settlement before he leaves office in January.

   Thousands mark Hamas anniversary

Thousands of people have gathered in Gaza's main square to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Hamas, the Palestinian faction.

   Iraq reconstruction 'a failure'

The US-led coalition's $100bn effort to rebuild Iraq has failed amid bureaucratic quarrels, ignorance of Iraqi society and violence in the country, the New York Times has quoted a US federal report as saying.

   Dozens dead in Egypt bus crash

At least 45 people have been killed and 12 others injured in a bus accident south of Cairo, Egypt's capital, a security official says.

   Iran executes 'Mossad spy'

An Iranian electronics salesman accused of passing information about the country's atomic energy programme to the Israelis has been hanged, a spokesman for the judiciary has said.

   Qatar opens Islamic art collection

The world's largest collection of Islamic art has gone on display in the Gulf state of Qatar.The $300 million Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, the capital of Qatar, was unveiled on Saturday before Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, and 1,000 dignitaries from around the world.

   Iraq cabinet passes US forces pact

Iraq's cabinet has approved a security pact which allows about 150,000 US troops to remain in the country for another three years, a government spokesman has confirmed.

   Olmert: Gaza truce 'shattered'

Israel's prime minister says the five-month truce with Hamas in the Gaza Strip has been "shattered" following 13 days of tit-for-tat attacks.

   Bedouin shoot Egyptian policeman

Bedouin fighters have shot and wounded an Egyptian policeman in Sinai.The shooting follows an incident in which tribesmen seized dozens of guns and thousands of bullets during two days of protests.

   Quartet urges Middle East push

Senior envoys from the Quartet of Middle East negotiators have called on Israel and the Palestinians to move forwards with peace talks despite the process being largely stagnant for the past year.

   Hamas-Fatah talks postponed

Reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have been postponed at the 11th hour.

   Iraq moves on minorities bill

Iraq's president and two vice-presidents have approved a resolution that guarantees local council seats for Christians and other minorities.

   Warning as Israel settler funds cut

The Israeli government has announced it will cut off all funding for "illegal" Jewish settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank.

   Brown urges Gulf funding for IMF

The Gulf tour by the British prime minister has led to Saudi Arabia and Qatar saying that they are willing to increase their co-operation to contain any further spread of the global credit crisis.

   Deadly bombings shake Iraq capital

At least six people have been killed and at least 20 others wounded in two bomb blasts in the centre of Iraq's capital, Baghdad.

   Nasrallah decries 'propaganda'

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement has denied allegations linking the organisation to a Colombian drug trafficking network.

   Iraqi Shia hold security pact march

About 300 Iraqis have staged a protest against a planned security deal which would allow US soldiers to stay in the country for at least three more years.

   Ministers see economies growing despite turmoil GCC say turmoil makes monetary union urgent

Finance ministers and central bankers from the oil-rich Gulf said on Saturday they expect their economies to continue to grow despite the global financial crisis and a sharp drop in oil prices.

   Iraqi Shia MPs fault US troop pact

Iraq's ruling Shia parties have demanded changes to a deal that would allow US troops to stay in the country until 2011.

   Violence at West Bank olive harvest

Jewish settlers have been caught on camera punching and kicking two news photographers and a British woman who was helping Palestinians pick olives near a West Bank town.

   Egypt tycoon on trial for murder

Hesham Talaat Moustafa, an Egyptian construction developer, and a former police officer, is on trial for the murder of Suzanne Tamim, a Lebanese singer.

   Akko faces fourth night of riots

Jewish and Arab rioters have clashed for a fourth straight night in the northern Israeli city of Akko.Police fired water cannons to disperse crowds and arrested 32 people from both sides on Saturday, and three Arab homes were torched and damaged, Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman said.

   Several killed by Baghdad car bomb

A bomb planted in a parked car has killed nine people and wounded 13 others after it exploded in a busy commercial street of Baghdad, police say.

   Christians flee northern Iraq city

Attacks in the Iraqi city of Mosul have forced nearly 1,000 Christians, including 500 families, from their homes in just the past week, the governor of the northern Ninawa province says.

   Gulf stocks hit amid global crisis

Gulf states' stock markets have dropped sharply due to uncertainty surrounding the current global financial crisis.

   Egypt in symbolic visit to Iraq

Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister, has arrived in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad for a one-day surprise visit.

   Tunnels feed besieged Gaza

Hundreds of tunnels under the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt are keeping many of the Palestinian territory's 1.5 million impoverished residents supplied with food and fuel.

   Deadly car bombs rock Baghdad

At least 26 people have been killed and dozens wounded after two car bombs exploded in the west of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

   Egypt editor jailed amid press row

A newspaper editor has been jailed for two months after publishing articles suggesting Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, was seriously ill.

   Several killed in Iraq attacks

Bombs and shootings in Iraq have killed at least 14 people, including a four-member Iraqi private television crew.

   Saudi scholar issues TV death fatwa

A Saudi scholar has issued a religious decree saying it is permissible to kill the owners of television networks broadcasting "depravation and debauchery".

   Blamed for Israel visit; Iraq parliament lifts immunity of Sunni MP

The Iraqi parliament lifted the immunity of Sunni MP Mithal Alusi on Sunday for visiting Israel last week to attend an international conference on terrorism.

   Police suggest indicting Israeli PM

Israeli police have recommended corruption charges against the country's prime minister.Police said on Sunday that they possess enough evidence to charge Ehud Olmert for accepting bribes and breaching public trust.

   Cairo rockslide search continues

Rescuers are still looking for hundreds of people feared trapped in the rubble of homes crushed in a massive rockslide at a shantytown on the outskirts of Cairo.

   Sudan denies rebel claims of Darfur attack

The Sudanese government on Sunday denied claims by rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) that the army has launched a massive attack in north Darfur, resulting in heavy casualties.

   Israel police raid Islamic Movement

Israeli security forces have raided the offices of the Islamic Movement and al-Aqsa institution in the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm, accusing them of supporting the Palestinian Hamas movement.

   Five killed in Iraq suicide attack

A suicide bomber has killed at least five people and wounded nine more in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk, police have said.

   Suicide blasts target Iraq pilgrims

A double suicide attack has killed at least 19 people and wounded 75 in a town near Iskandariya, 50km south of Baghdad, Iraq's capital.