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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ceasefire Agreed between Hamas and Israel

A truce between Hamas and Israel was declared on Wednesday night and both sides adhered to the terms, even if three rockets were fired from Gaza in the first few hours of the agreement. Israel pledged to stop all air and sea attacks, including the targeting of individuals, and allow the movement of goods and people at border crossings. Hamas agreed to stop firing rockets into Israeli territory and will cease border attacks. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told the Israeli media that the ceasefire was a set of separate understandings and could fall at any time. “It could last nine days or nine weeks or more, but if it doesn’t hold, we know what to do and, of course, we will consider the possibility of resuming our activity if there is any firing or provocations”, he said. The U.N. Security Council called on Israel and Hamas to stick to the terms of the agreement and praised Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi for his role in the negotiations. Egypt has also pledged to follow up any reports that the deal had been broken.

Syrian Rebels Capture Army Base in Oil-Rich East

Syrian opposition fighters claimed on Thursday to have captured an army base in the town of Mayadeen, in the oil-rich eastern province of Dein al-Zor, effectively putting a large swathe of eastern Syria under opposition control. The base was considered the last bastion of the Bashar al-Assad regime in the eastern province. It fell after a 22-day siege and 44 rebel fighters are said to have died in the battle. The central government in Damascus has not commented on the loss of the base and the number of Syrian army casualties is not known. The capture of the Mayadeen army base follows an attack on a military airport near the Iraqi border last week. In the capital Damascus, two mortal shells struck the upscale Mazzeh neighbourhood during the morning rush, injuring at least one person according to Syrian state TV. The area is home to foreign embassies and has been targeted several times in the last week.

Uganda Postpones Trial of British Gay Play Producer

A court in Uganda has postponed the trial of a British theatre producer who the government accuses of staging a play without proper authorisation. David Cecil, 34, is now scheduled to be tried next year and could face up to two years in jail. His play, “The River and the Mountain”, was performed at various venues in the capital Kampala in August despite an injunction by the government. It centres on the plight of a man coming out amidst the country’s vociferous anti-gay lobby. Homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda. Proposed legislation would make some homosexual acts, such as engaging in homosexual acts for a second time or engaging in gay sex where one partner is a minor or is infected with HIV, punishable by death. Additionally, mere public discussion promoting homosexuality, whether by private citizens or rights groups, could be punished by up to seven years in jail. Cecil has been allowed to travel to the U.K. and will return to Uganda ahead of his next hearing.

Sarkozy Questioned in Campaign Funds Probe

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been questioned by magistrates in Bordeaux about alleged illegal campaign funds from France’s richest woman during his run for president in 2007. It is the first time since leaving office that Sarkozy has faced questions about the issue. The judges want to know whether Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oreal heiress, was mentally fit when she decided to donate the funds or if she was in any way manipulated into supporting his campaign. The first suspicions about the money were raised three years ago by a woman who worked as an accountant for the 90-year-old Bettencourt, who alleged that a large cash withdrawal had been earmarked for the Sarkozy campaign. The former president has already said that “there’s not a penny whose origin is unaccounted for”. He was also questioned about submarine sales to Pakistan and large sums spent on opinion polls while he was in office.

Man Arrested For ID Theft of Most of Greece’s Population

A 35-year-old Greek hacker has been arrested for allegedly stealing “nine million data files containing identification card data, addresses, tax ID numbers and license plate numbers”. That figure would equate to approximately 80% of the country’s population, but some of the data had duplicate entries. The local police service estimates that two-thirds of all Greek citizens might have been compromised by the data breach. He is also suspected of trying to sell the data. It is not known if he hacked into government systems or had an accomplice within one of Greece’s autarchies. We are investigating what the source of the data was and how they were used by the man arrested, and also the possibility of him providing them to someone else”, said police spokesman Christos Manouras.

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