- Associated Press - Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kerry brokers deal between Afghan political rivals, easing threat of political crisis

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghanistan’s two rival candidates reached a breakthrough agreement Saturday to a complete audit of their contested presidential election and, whoever the victor, a national unity government.

The deal, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, offers a path out of what threatened to be a debilitating political crisis for Afghanistan, with both candidates claiming victory and talking of setting up competing governments.

Such a scenario could have dangerously split the fragile country’s government and security forces at a time the U.S. is pulling out most of its troops and the Taliban continues to wage a fierce insurgency.

Instead, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah agreed to abide by a 100 percent, internationally supervised audit of all 8 million ballots in the presidential election. They vowed to form a national unity government once the results are announced, presumably one that includes members of each side.

Kerry, who conducted shuttle diplomacy between the two candidates late into the night Friday and Saturday, warned that much work still remained.

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Israeli ground troops raid rocket launching site in Gaza; 4 soldiers hurt in battle

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire, Israel widened its range of Gaza bombing targets to civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties and deployed ground troops inside Gaza for the first time early Sunday to raid a rocket launching site in the Palestinian territory. More than 156 Palestinians have been killed in five days of bombardment.

Four Israeli soldiers were hurt in clashes during the brief incursion to destroy a rocket launching site in northern Gaza, the military said. It said they have returned to Israeli territory.

It was the first time that Israeli ground troops are known to have entered Gaza in the current offensive. But the operation was carried out by special forces and did not appear to be the beginning of a broad ground offensive.

On Saturday, Israel announced it would hit northern Gaza “with great force” to prevent rocket attacks from there on Israel.

One of the Israeli strikes hit a center for the disabled where Palestinians said two patients were killed and four people seriously hurt. In a second attack, on Saturday evening, an Israeli warplane flattened the home of Gaza’s police chief and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people, officials said.

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NYC-bound Delta flight from Israel has mechanical problem, returns to Tel Aviv; lands safely

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