1. Kerry: Israelis, Palestinians are closer to peace than ever before
- "I believe we are closer than we have been in years to bringing about the peace and the prosperity and the security that all of the people of this region deserve," he told reporters at Ben-Gurion International Airport prior to his departure from Israel.
- Kerry met twice on Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and once again on Friday morning, for a total of 12 hours, and held a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday that lasted more than four hours.
- 160 experts and employees of the American administration were involved in the preparation of the security plan presented by General John Allen on Thursday to Netanyahu and Abbas. "We believe that we can contribute ideas that could help both Israelis and Palestinians get to an agreement," Kerry said
- Abbas rejected ideas posed by US retired general John Allen, enlisted by Obama to analyze the security aspects of any future agreement; ideas "would only lead to prolonging, maintaining the occupation," PA official says.
2. Al-Qaeda claims attack on Yemen defense ministry
- Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has said it was behind an attack on Yemen's defense ministry on Thursday that left 52 people dead.
- The group's media arm, al-Malahim, said the ministry complex in Sanaa had been targeted because US unmanned drones were being operated from there.
- The attack saw a suicide bomber ram an explosives-filled car into the main gate before gunmen launched an assault.
- Among the dead were soldiers and civilians, including seven foreigners. It was the deadliest attack in Sanaa since May 2012, when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a rehearsal for a military parade
3. Hagel Seeks to Assure Gulf Allies of U.S. Commitment
- In an announcement optically framed to convey the message, The Secretary of Defense, spoke from the deck of a Navy vessel that serves as a floating staging base for Special Operations strike teams, minesweeping helicopters and remotely piloted surveillance aircraft.
- All are configured to focus on Iran, directly across the water from the dock at the American naval base in Bahrain where the defense secretary spoke
- Mr. Hagel said negotiations with Iran to freeze part of its nuclear capabilities in exchange for an initial easing of crippling economic sanctions “represents a very wise opportunity.”
- He said the six-month deadline for progress would allow the world “to see if the Iranians are serious about following through with commitments.”
4. Iran, powers meet next week on nuclear deal implementation
- Officials from Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia are to meet on December 9-10 in Vienna, where the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency is based, diplomats said on Friday.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency - which will be tasked with verifying that Iran carries out its part of the November 24 interim accord - "will have some involvement" in the meeting, IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said, without elaborating.
5. As Polio Spreads In Syria, Politics Thwarts Vaccination Efforts
- After being free of the crippling disease for more than a decade, Syria recorded 10 confirmed cases of polio in October. Now the outbreak has grown to 17 confirmed cases, the WHO said last week. And the virus has spread to four cities, including a war-torn suburb near the capital of Damascus.
- The Syrian government has pledged to immunize all Syrian children under age 5. But wartime politics is getting in the way. And the outbreak is expected to grow.
- The WHO has issued a regional polio surveillance alert in response to the cases from Syria. It is urging neighboring countries to launch supplementary polio vaccination campaigns to keep the virus from spreading.