US calls for North Korea to release American Dozens killed in Syrian village Israeli PM would want peace vote Somali famine killed 133K kids
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. called Thursday for North Korea to grant amnesty and immediately release a Korean-American sentenced to 15 years' hard labor for "hostile acts" against the state.
Kenneth Bae, 44, a Washington state man described by friends as a devout Christian and a tour operator, is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others eventually were deported or released without serving out their terms.
Analysts say Bae's sentencing could be an effort by Pyongyang to win diplomatic concessions in the ongoing standoff over its nuclear program.
Bae, from Lynnwood, Wash., was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, state media said. The exact nature of Bae's alleged crimes has not been revealed.
BEIRUT -- Syrian troops backed by pro-government gunmen swept into a Sunni village in the mountains near the Mediterranean coast on Thursday, killing dozens of people, including women and children, and torching homes, activists said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 50 people -- and possibly as many as 100 -- were killed in the violence in Bayda, a village outside the city of Banias. It cited witnesses who said some of the dead were killed with knives or blunt objects and that dozens of villagers were still missing.
The village is primarily inhabited by Sunni Muslims, who dominate the country's rebel movement, while most of the surrounding villages are home to members of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
JERUSALEM -- Israel's prime minister said Thursday that any peace deal reached with the Palestinians on his watch would be subject to a national referendum, backing a contentious step that could hinder peace efforts.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen for more than four years, but the referendum issue re-emerged this week when two of Netanyahu's main coalition partners reportedly signaled support for the proposal.
The discussion comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attempts to re-energize peace talks. This week, after some prodding by Kerry, Arab leaders sweetened a decade-old comprehensive peace plan in a gesture aimed at helping restart talks.
"If we get to a peace agreement with the Palestinians, I'd like to bring it to a referendum," Netanyahu said at the start of a meeting with the visiting Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.
NAIROBI, Kenya -- A decision by extremist Islamic militants to ban delivery of food aid and a "normalization of crisis" that numbed international donors to unfolding disaster made south-central Somalia the most dangerous place in the world to be a child in 2011.
The first in-depth study of famine deaths in Somalia in 2011 was released Thursday, and it estimates that 133,000 children under age 5 died, with child death rates approaching 20 percent in some communities.
That's 133,000 under-5 child deaths out of an estimated 6.5 million people in south-central Somalia. That compares to 65,000 under-5 deaths that occurred in all other industrial countries in the world combined during the same period, a population of 990 million, said Chris Hillbruner, a senior food security adviser at FEWS NET, a U.S.-sponsored famine warning agency.