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Briefly: Netanyahu faces coalition crisis

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JERUSALEM — A fierce debate over how to draft religious men into the Israeli military has sparked the first crisis in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's newly expanded coalition government.

The government is racing to draw up a new draft law ahead of a court-ordered Aug. 1 deadline. The Supreme Court has ruled the current system, which exempts ultra-Orthodox men from mandatory military service, is illegal.

On Monday, Mr. Netanyahu disbanded a parliamentary committee working on a new draft law due to deep disagreements among its members. Ultra-Orthodox parties oppose any change in the current system.

Mr. Netanyahu's decision led his largest coalition partner, Kadima, to threaten to leave the government. Kadima only joined the coalition in May with the goal of reforming the current draft system.

Kadima's leader, Shaul Mofaz, angrily accused Mr. Netanyahu of breaking agreements that had drawn him into the government.

He said that the disbanded committee, led by a Kadima lawmaker, would still issue its recommendations this week, and that if Mr. Netanyahu does not take the "necessary step" of using the report as the basis for a new draft system, "The national unity government will come to an end."

LEBANON

Iran, Hezbollah to defend Syria from 'attack'

BEIRUT — Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and Iran will fight alongside the Syrian regime if it is attacked by foreign forces, a pro-Damascus Palestinian militant leader said Tuesday.

In the event of "a foreign attack, we discussed with our brothers [in the Syrian regime], with [Hezbollah chief] Hassan Nasrallah and our brothers in Iran, we will be part of this battle," said Ahmed Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

In an interview with Beirut-based Mayadeen television, Mr. Jibril said that if a "Turkish-European alliance or NATO escalate ... we will take to the streets and fight on behalf of all those with honor and our Syrian brothers."

Mr. Jibril also cited Mr. Nasrallah as saying Hezbollah would fight on behalf of the Syrian regime, and described the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance as "one axis" that the Popular Front is part of.

LIBYA

4 ICC hostages return to Netherlands

THE HAGUE — Four International Criminal Court staff held for nearly four weeks in Libya on allegations that they shared sensitive documents with the jailed son of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi face an internal investigation into Tripoli's claims, the court said Tuesday.

Libya freed the staffers Monday after the court's president flew to the country to oversee their release and apologized for the incident.

The four have not spoken to media since flying into Rotterdam in the early hours of Tuesday, and the court says it will now investigate Libya's claims that they showed documents to Seif al-Islam Gadhafi that could harm Libya's national security.

"The four of our colleagues are in good physical shape and in good spirits as well," said court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah. "They were very happy to be reunited with their families."

Libyan officials have handed details of their investigation to the court, but ICC officials in The Hague say they need to conduct their own probe.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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