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WASHINGTON: After 13 years, the United States is winding down its war in Afghanistan, plagued by doubts about what was accomplished at such a high cost.

Instead of a sense of triumph at the close of the longest conflict in America's history, there is mostly regret and fatigue over a war that claimed the lives of more than 2,300 American troops and cost more than a trillion dollars.

US commanders insist the Afghan security forces will hold the line in a stalemate with the Taliban. But some officials fear a repeat of Iraq, in which an American-trained army virtually collapsed in the face of an extremist onslaught.

A large majority of Americans now say the war was not worth it, and only 23 per cent of US soldiers believe the mission has been a success, according to recent polls.

But when it began, the war enjoyed overwhelming support and victory seemed within reach.

Less than a month after Al Qaeda's attacks of September 11, 2001, president George W. Bush captured the nation's sense of righteous anger as he announced military action in Afghanistan in a televised address in October.

The goal was to “disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations,” Bush said, and to attack the Taliban regime that had hosted Al Qaeda and refused to hand over its leaders.

Toppling the Taliban


US objectives were met with stunning speed. Al Qaeda training camps were wiped out and Northern Alliance fighters — backed by US-led air strikes and a small number of American special forces — toppled the Taliban regime within a month.

For the United States, the war seemed all but over. But the Taliban eventually regrouped from safe havens, even as Washington's attention shifted to a new war in Iraq.

The Taliban grew into a virulent insurgency that exploited resentment of a corrupt, ineffective government in Kabul.

The United States formed the backbone of an international force that found itself in a protracted fight with insurgents.

The US-led contingent steadily expanded — while the goals of the war became increasingly ambitious as well.

Washington and its allies embraced the lofty ideals of nation-building, vowing to fight corruption, foster economic development, and forge a “stable, democratic state” in an impoverished land mired in war for decades.

The results were often disappointing. International aid helped build roads and schools, but it also was blamed for fuelling rampant corruption, with some of the money ending up with the insurgents.

Attempts to broker peace talks with the Taliban in recent years came to nothing. Critics say Washington missed a chance at cutting a deal early in the war, when the insurgents were on the retreat.

Fighting the elusive Taliban, with their homemade bombs and Pakistani sanctuaries, proved frustrating for Western troops, who struggled to grasp the language and tribal rivalries of an alien culture.

Commanders appealed for more troops. And Washington kept sending forces “in the vain hope that something might somehow improve”, wrote retired general Daniel Bolger, author of “Why We Lost".

Having reached a peak of more than 100,000 US forces, the American presence is down to about 11,000 troops, now that Nato's combat mission is over.

'Big test'


The balance sheet for the campaign is decidedly mixed.

The intervention deprived Al Qaeda of a sanctuary, ousted the Taliban from power, eased the repression of women and created an Afghan army that could make it difficult for the insurgents to return to their once dominant role, analysts said.

But Al Qaeda — even after its leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US commandos — has spawned cells elsewhere and inspired new extremists in Syria and Iraq, while women's advances are fragile and could easily unravel.

The Taliban may no longer run ministries but they are far from defeated and could yet turn the tide against the Kabul government's army, which has suffered unsustainably high casualties and desertions.

“The Taliban have nowhere near the power they did in 2001, but they are certainly not finished,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.

US officials hope a huge investment in the Afghan security forces will pay off, but already the insurgents have clawed back control in some areas in the south where American troops have pulled out.

The newly created security force, riddled with ethnic divisions, remains “a question mark”, Felbab-Brown said.

“Next year is a big test for them,” said Carter Malkasian, author of a book on the war who worked as a US diplomat for two years in southern Helmand province.

“If they lose ground, that's an indication that this war is going to keep going,” he told AFP.

“If that happens, the Taliban are going to get bolder, because the Taliban are not going to see a reason to negotiate."

نیروبی:بالی ووڈ میں 90 کی دہائی میں اپنی بے باک اداکاری سے جانی جانے والی ممتاکلکرنی کو منشیات اسمگلنگ کے الزام میں شوہر سمیت گرفتار کرلیا گیا۔بھارتی میڈیا رپورٹس کے مطابق سابق  اداکارہ ممتا کلکرنی کو کینیا کی پولیس اور امریکی انسداد منشیات ایجنسی نے منشیات اسمگل کرنے کے الزام میں ان کے شوہر وکی گوسوامی سمیت اتوار کے روز کینیا کے شہر مومباسا سے گرفتار کیا جس کے بعد ان سے اس حوالے سے پوچھ گچھ جاری ہے۔اس سے قبل 1997 میں بھی وکی گوسوامی کو منشیات اسمگل کرنے کے جرم میں دبئی سے گرفتار کیا گیا تھا اور اس جرم میں انہیں 25 سال قید کی سزا سنائی گئی تھی تاہم بعد ازاں جیل میں ان کے اچھے رویئے کی وجہ سے ان کی سزا میں کمی کردی گئی تھی۔واضح رہے کہ ممتا کلکرنی نے اپنی بے باک اداکاری کے باعث بالی ووڈ میں خوب شہرت پائی تاہم بعد میں اداکارہ نے اچانک فلمی دنیا چھوڑ کر دبئی اور اس کے بعد کینیا میں رہائش اختیار کرلی جہاں انہوں وکی گوسوامی سے شادی بھی کی۔ممتا کلکرنی کے بارے میں بتایا جارہا ہے کہ انہوں نے گدشتہ چند ماہ قبل اسلام قبول کیا تھا اور اس وجہ سے انہوں نے فلموں سے دوری اختیار کرلی تھی

An intelligence agency is a government agency responsible for the collection, analysis, and exploitation of information and intelligence in support of law enforcement, national security, defence and foreign policy objectives. Means of information gathering are both overt and covert and may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public sources. The assembly and propagation of this information is known as intelligence analysis or intelligence assessment.

Following are the World’s best intelligence agencies of 2014:

1. Inter service intelligence (ISI), Pakistan
Inter Services Intelligence is Pakistan’s premium intelligence agency having great record of success over the world. ISI was founded in 1948 after Indo-Pak just a year after partition. Due to their great track record in Afghanistan, Iran, Bosnia, India, USSR and America In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 1st number. The ISI was structured to be manned by officers from the three main military services, and to specialize in the collection, analysis and assessment of external intelligence, either military or non-military.


2. Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, United States
Central Intelligence Agency was formed in September 18, 1947. Before 9/11 attacks CIA was ranked as best intelligence agency in the world. Currently more than 21,575(classified) employees are working in CIA. With a great success records of the time CIA ranked as 2nd best intelligence agency in the world. The CIA’s headquarters is in Langley, Virginia, a few miles west of Washington, D.C. CIA commonly operates from different locations of U.S.A.


3. Secret Intelligence Services/MI6, United Kingdom
Secret Intelligence Services also known as MI6 was founded in 1909. Currently they are operating from SIS Building, London, UK. At least 3,200 classified employees are providing their services in SIS. SIS responsible for protecting the UK’s internal security. Includes overview of work, history and relationship with other countries. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014 SIS ranked as 3rd most effective and successful intelligence agency. No doubt that this intelligence agency is one of the best intelligence of the world.


4. Ministry of State Security (MSS), China
The Ministry of State Security is the security agency of the people’s republic of China. Ministry of State Security is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security. Commonly MSS gather information about the enemies of Communist Party of China. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies MSS ranked as 4th best intelligence agency of the world. Geng Huichang is director of MSS and offices are located in Beijing, China.


5. Federal Security Services (FSB), Russia
Federal Security Services is the principal security agency of Russian Federation and its main responsibilities are within the country to gather counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism and surveillance as well as investigation some other types of the grave crimes. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014 FSB ranked as 5th best intelligence agency. .


6. The Institute For Intelligence and Special Operation (MOSAD), Israel
The Institute For Intelligence and Special Operation is responsible for intelligence collection, covert operation and counterterrorism, as well as bringing Jews to Israel from countries where official Aliyah agencies are forbidden and protecting Jewish communities. It was formed in December 13, 1949. There are more above 1,200 employees working in this intelligence. The head quartered of this intelligence agency is in Tel Aviv (City of Russia). In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 6th number. The performance of this intelligence is one of the best in all over the world. Its director reports directly to the Prime Minister.


7. Direction Generale De La Securite Exterieure (DGSE), France
Direction Generale De La Securite Exterieure was founded April 2, 1982. This is France’s external intelligence agency that is operating under the direction of the French ministry of defense. Direction Generale De La Securite Exterieure is providing intelligence and national security, notably by performing paramilitary and counterintelligence operations abroad. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 7th number. The agency operates under the course and administration of Ministry of Defense.


8. Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada
Canadian Security Intelligence Service was founded in June 21, 1984. There are more above 2449 employees are working in this intelligence service. Its headquarters is located in Ottawa, Ontario. Canadian Security Intelligence Service is responsible to parliament through the minister of Public Safety. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 8th number. There working performance is best and better. This intelligence is belonging from Canada.


9. Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India
Research and Analysis Wing founded in 21 September 1968. Its headquarters is located in New Delhi. The primary function of R&AW is collection of external intelligence and counter-terrorism. In addition, it is responsible for obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations and persons to advise Indian policymakers. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014 RAW ranked as 9th best intelligence agency in the world.


10. Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australia
Australian Secret Intelligence Service was founded in 13 May 1952. ASIS is responsible for collecting foreign intelligence, undertaking counter-intelligence activities and cooperation with other intelligence agencies overseas. In the list of top ten world’s best intelligence agencies 2014, this intelligence agency is deserved at 10th number. No doubt that there working performance is one of the best and excellent.



AKSU, China: Outside a mosque in China’s restive west, a government-appointed Muslim cleric was dodging a foreign reporter’s question about why young men of the Uighur ethnic minority don’t have beards when one such youth interrupted. “Why don’t you just tell them the truth?” he shouted to the cleric under the nervous gaze of several police officers who had been tailing the reporters all day in the oasis city of Aksu. “It’s because the government doesn’t allow beards.” A plainclothes Uighur policeman swiftly rebuked the young man. “Be careful what you say,” he warned.

The tense exchange provided a fleeting glimpse of both the extremes of China’s restrictions on minority Uighurs and the resentment that simmers beneath the surface in their homeland. Such a mood pervades Xinjiang’s south, a vast, mainly rural region that’s become a key battleground in the ruling Communist Party’s struggle to contain escalating ethnic violence that has killed at least a few hundred people over the past 18 months.

The personal matter of facial hair has taken on heavy political overtones in the Uighur heartland. Also proscribed are certain types of women’s headscarves, veils and “jilbabs”, loose, full-length garments worn in public. Such restrictions are not new but their enforcement has intensified this year in the wake of attacks Beijing has blamed on religious extremists. In a recent sweep of Urumqi, the region’s capital, authorities last week said they seized 1,265 hijab-type headscarves, 259 jilbabs and even clothes printed with Islamic star-and-crescent symbols. Officials also “rescued” 82 children from studying the Holy Quran, the government said.

The prohibitions on Islamic attire and beards have attracted widespread criticism, with many experts saying such repression angers ordinary Uighurs and risks radicalizing them. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s self-perpetuating. The more they crack down on it, the more people re-Islamize. This is a pattern we see all over the world,” said Joanne Smith Finley, an expert on Uighurs at Britain’s Newcastle University. “The Chinese state has created a growing terrorist threat where previously there was none. It has stimulated an Islamic renewal where there wouldn’t necessarily have been one.”

A major thrust of the yearlong crackdown on terrorism has been a campaign against religious extremism, with arrests of hundreds of people for watching videos apparently hailing terrorism or extremist ideology. But authorities also are targeting beards, veils and other symbols of religious piety in a campaign that creeps ever farther into Uighurs’ daily lives despite official claims that the government respects religious freedom.

“At the moment, we face a very serious, intense and complex situation with fighting terrorism and maintaining stability,” a party newspaper, the Xinjiang Daily, said in an edict to “frontline” minority cadres in late July. Officials, it said, must also act to control weddings without singing and dancing and funerals where there are no feasts – referring to Uighur customs the government says Islamic conservatives have barred.

Young Uighur men are discouraged from keeping beards and those who have them are stopped at checkpoints and questioned. So are women who wear Muslim headscarves and veils that obscure their faces. Some public places such as hospitals bar such individuals from entering. Earlier this month, the northern Xinjiang city of Karamay announced that young men with beards and women in burqas or hijabs would not be allowed on public buses.

In the city of Aksu, Ma Yanfeng, the director of the city’s foreign propaganda office, said the government was concerned that Uighurs were being unduly influenced by radical Islamic forces from overseas. “It’s because they have been incited by others to do so,” Ma said, noting that traditional dress of Uighur women is multicolored. “Those clothes that are all black are a sign of influence from foreigners like in Turkey and have to do with extremist thinking.”

Unlike in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or parts of South Asia, veils and abayas are relatively new to Uighurs in Xinjiang, only growing in popularity in recent decades, scholars say. Uighur historically have used “ikat” textiles with bold patterns and brilliant colors, an aesthetic they share with Uzbeks, Tajiks and other Central Asian cultures. Contemporary Uighur women, especially those in cities, dress like other urbanites though they aren’t likely to bare a lot of skin.

Uighurs have been adopting veils and beards in a shift toward more pious lives, partly as symbolic resistance to Chinese rule and partly out of a desire for the egalitarianism associated with Islam to mend social inequalities, said Smith Finley, the Newcastle expert who has studied Uighurs since 1991. The shift is also in reaction to dashed hopes for independence after bloody riots in 1997 and the ensuing crackdown, she said. Some Uighurs see their current plight as punishment from God for not being good enough Muslims. They think “if I’m a better Muslim, then the Uighurs as a whole will be better Muslims and our future, our situation, will be better,” she said.

Chinese authorities apparently make little distinction between these expressions of piety and the kind of extremism that poses a threat to society. In May, police in the county of Luntai raided women’s dress shops and confiscated jilbabs. A photo on the local government’s website showed four male police officers at a shop examining textiles while a woman in a black jilbab, likely a shop assistant or owner, stood in the background watching.

The rubber-stamp legislature in the southern prefecture of Turpan says on its website it is considering a law to impose fines of up to 500 yuan ($80) for wearing veils and cloaks in public. The legislature says the law would help safeguard social stability, cultural security and gender equality and even protect health – because, the proposal says, burqas deprive skin of sunlight and can cause heatstroke in summer.

Elsewhere, officials have been rounding up dozens of Uighur women to attend indoctrination sessions and to trade their jilbabs and veils for traditional Uighur silk dresses. “After today’s ideological education, I now understand that the jilbab is not our ethnic group’s traditional attire, and I recognize that veils and wearing jilbabs is incompatible with Islamic culture and is a backward and bad practice,” a woman named Ayiguli Bake was quoted by a local party-run newspaper as saying in a scripted fashion.

But on the streets of Kuqa and Aksu, many women could be seen wearing headscarves that covered their necks, though black cloaks were nowhere in sight and in most instances only elderly men had beards. Chinese officials probably are targeting outward manifestations of piety because they cannot “fundamentally alter people’s inner states,” said Gardner Bovingdon, a Xinjiang expert at Indiana University. “I can’t make you stop admiring a more rigorous, scriptural Islam, but I can make you shave off that beard, I can make you take off that scarf,” Bovingdon said.  “So that’s what I’ll do.”

The authorities’ heavy hand has reportedly sparked protests. In the rural town of Alaqagha, 40 km south of Kuqa, police fired into a crowd in May when villagers violently protested the detention of women and girls for wearing headscarves and Islamic robes, according to the US government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia. On a recent evening in Alaqagha, rows of surveillance cameras perched atop street lights watched residents breaking their fasts at a small outdoor market. Pistol-carrying police who were trailing AP journalists kept an eye on the villagers, who included women with headscarves shopping at donkey-drawn fruit carts.

“It’s the state’s way of saying ‘we don’t trust you, we see your religion as being something that’s inherently of concern to us,’” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “‘We are going to treat it as fundamentally problematic behavior, not as the basic right that it is.’” – AP

TEHRAN: Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said it has brought down an Israeli stealth drone above the Natanz uranium enrichment site in the centre of the country.

“A spy drone of the Zionist regime (Israel) was brought down by a missile... This stealth drone was trying to approach the Natanz nuclear zone, “the corps said in a statement on its official website

“This act demonstrates a new adventurism by the Zionist regime... The Revolutionary Guard and the other armed forces reserve the right to respond to this act,” the statement added.

Natanz is Iran's main uranium enrichment site, housing more than 16,000 centrifuges. Around 3,000 more are at the Fordo plant, buried inside a mountain and hard to destroy.

Israel has often threatened to attack Iranian nuclear installations.

Iran and the P5+1 powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- reached a six-month interim agreement under which Iran suspended part of its nuclear activities in return for a partial lifting of international sanctions.

In July that deal was extended by four months until November 24 to give the two sides more time to negotiate a final accord aimed at ending 10 years of tensions over Iran's nuclear programme.

The sides remain split on how much uranium enrichment Iran should be allowed to carry out.

Washington wants Tehran to slash its programme by three-quarters, but Iran wants to expand enrichment ten-fold by 2021, chiefly to produce fuel for its Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Israel, a sworn enemy of Iran, opposes any agreement allowing Tehran to keep part of its uranium enrichment programme, saying Iran could use the material to make an atomic bomb.

Iran has consistently denied wanting to make nuclear weapons.

BAGHDAD: Militants released a video apparently showing the beheading of an American journalist kidnapped in Syria, in the most direct retaliation yet to US air strikes against them in Iraq.

The video, in which the Islamic State (IS) group also threatens to kill another reporter if US air strikes in Iraq continue, sparked global outrage on Wednesday.

Posted online late Tuesday, it shows a masked militant beheading a man resembling James Foley, who has been missing since he was seized in Syria in November 2012.

News of Foley's apparent beheading comes as US air strikes appeared to yield some results, helping Kurdish and federal forces push IS fighters back from some recently-conquered areas in northern Iraq, including the strategic Mosul dam.

According to Kurdish officers, another US air strike was carried out early Wednesday, targeting an apparent jihadist meeting at a school near the dam.

Washington did not immediately confirm the raid.

“We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people,” Foley's mother Diane said in a Facebook message to supporters.

“We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.

“The White House said US intelligence was studying the video, and that President Barack Obama had been briefed on it as he flew from Washington to resume his vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

“If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends, “National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

Foley was an experienced correspondent who had covered the war in Libya before heading to Syria to follow the revolt against Bashar al-Assad's regime, contributing to news site GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and other media outlets.

AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog described Foley “as a brave, independent and impartial journalist” whose work in Syria and other war zones was “widely admired”.

According to witnesses, Foley was seized in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on November 22, 2012.

British accent

In the nearly five-minute video, titled “A Message to America,” IS declares that Foley was killed because Obama ordered air strikes against IS in northern Iraq.

The beheading is carried out in an open desert area with no immediate signs as to whether it is in Iraq or Syria by a black-clad masked militant who speaks English with a British accent.

Foley is seen kneeling on the ground, dressed in an orange outfit that resembles those worn by prisoners held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

“Any aggression towards the Islamic State is an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership,” the masked militant declares.

He threatens to kill another man shown in the video and said to be Steven Sotloff, whose kidnapping in August 2013 has not been widely reported.

He has written for several US newspapers and magazines, including Time, Foreign Policy and The Christian Science Monitor.

France on Wednesday slammed the apparent killing as “a barbaric act that plays on fear,” while British premier David Cameron termed it “shocking and depraved” as he cut short a holiday.

Germany, denouncing the militants as “barbaric”, said it would send arms to Iraqi Kurdish forces battling them.

The group, which led an offensive that has overrun large chunks of Iraq and neighbouring Syria, has declared a cross-border caliphate - a successor state to historic Muslim empires.

Expanded strikes

Earlier this month, Obama reacted by ordering US warplanes to strike the militants arguing they threatened US personnel in the Kurdish regional capital Erbil and risked carrying out a genocide against religious minority groups.

Obama has insisted the scope of the strikes would remain limited but Iraqi officials and observers have argued only foreign intervention could turn the tide on militant expansion in Iraq.

Shiite militia, federal soldiers, Kurdish troops and Sunni Arab tribes have been battling IS for weeks in some areas but have been unable to clinch a decisive victory.

An offensive launched on Tuesday against Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit was presented as a major push to liberate the city, but it appeared to have stalled a few hours later.

Shellfire periodically hit the city on Wednesday while Iraqi security forces remained positioned outside it, police and witnesses said.

US and Iraqi officials say the strikes have already had an impact on IS morale but the intervention may also have galvanised some fighters as fighting Americans is a source of prestige in global jihad.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah broke his silence on Friday over the three-week-old conflict in Gaza, condemning what he saw as international silence over Israel's offensive and describing this as a war crime and “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Saudi Arabia, which regards itself as a leader of the Sunni Muslim world, has played only a background role in the diplomacy to reinstate calm in Gaza, leaving the main Arab pursuit of a ceasefire to close ally Egypt and fellow Gulf monarchy Qatar.

“We see the blood of our brothers in Palestine shed in collective massacres that did not exclude anyone, and war crimes against humanity without scruples, humanity or morality,” Abdullah said in a brief speech read out on his behalf on state television.

“This (international) community, which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, has been indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence that has no justification.”

His speech, which focused mainly on what he described as a Middle East-wide threat from militancy, followed criticism by some Saudis on social media, including prominent clerics, over Riyadh's quiet response to the Gaza crisis.

Political complications

The kingdom's policy towards Gaza is complicated by its mistrust of the territory's ruling Hamas, a movement with close ideological and political links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Riyadh regards as a terrorist organisation.

Saudi Arabia believes the Brotherhood has a region-wide agenda to seize power from established government leaders, including the kingdom's al-Saud dynasty, and has quarrelled with Qatar over its support for the group.

Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates, said the speech was a bid to rebut accusations that Saudi Arabia - along with allies Egypt and the UAE - was happy to see Hamas weakened by Israel's offensive, which was prompted in part by increasing Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

“People want to see a stronger position from these three countries and it is not coming over very strongly,” he said.

The kingdom's muted response to the crisis so far has been echoed across a region already absorbed by a series of civil wars, insurgencies and internal political strife that have erupted in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings.

Since the Israeli air and ground onslaught began, Saudi Arabia's public expressions of condemnation over the violence have been mostly limited to statements following the weekly cabinet meetings, and to pledges of humanitarian aid.

Newspaper coverage, which often follows the official line in Saudi Arabia, has often relegated the conflict to inside pages in sharp contrast to previous Israeli incursions into Gaza.

Some editorials have taken the rare step of blaming Hamas for the bloodshed, in which 1,509 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed, rather than Israel. There have been 66 Israeli deaths, 63 of them soldiers.

Riyadh took a far more prominent role at past junctures of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It sponsored the 2002 Arab peace initiative offering the Jewish state an end to conflict with all Arab states in return for the creation of a Palestinian state and return of Palestinian refugees. Israel rejected it.

Since the offensive began, however, King Abdullah has met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon to discuss the crisis.

Ceasefire collapse

The conflict in Gaza has coincided with Saudi attempts to navigate multiple regional crises, including political chaos in Egypt, two separate insurgencies in its neighbour Yemen and wars in Iraq and Syria.

This regional turmoil is set against Saudi Arabia's bitter rivalry with Shia power Iran and its fears of rising influence exerted by Sunni militant groups the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which seek to topple the al-Saud dynasty.

In his speech, Abdullah condemned militants who he said were killing innocent people and mutilating their bodies in contravention of Islamic teachings.

He also called on the region's leaders and religious scholars to prevent Islam from being hijacked by militants.

He further said he was disappointed by the lack of any follow-up from other countries to his proposal two years ago to establish an international centre to combat terrorism.

Israel declared a Gaza ceasefire over on Friday only hours after it was announced, saying Hamas militants violated the pact 90 minutes after it took effect and apparently captured an Israeli officer while killing two other soldiers.

The truce was the most ambitious attempt yet to end the fighting and followed increasing international alarm over the soaring Palestinian civilian death toll.


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