Washington – Evoking the U.S. shuttle diplomacy of decades past, Secretary of State John Kerry is making his third trip to the Middle East in a span of just two weeks in a fresh bid to restart long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Though expectations are low for any breakthrough on Kerry’s trip, which begins Saturday, his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders represent some of the Obama administration’s most sustained efforts at engagement in a part of the world that has frustrated American administrations for the past six decades.
Kerry is going at a precarious time. Overnight and into Wednesday, Israel and Gaza militants engaged in the heaviest fighting since a cease-fire was declared in November. The militants fired several rockets into southern Israel, and Israel responded with its first airstrike in Gaza since the fighting subsided. No injuries were reported on either side.
Taliban attack wounds more than 90, 44 dead
Kabul, Afghanistan – Taliban fighters wearing Afghan army uniforms stormed a provincial courthouse in western Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least 44 people and wounding more than 90 in a complex attack that began with the explosion of a truck bomb followed by an assault in which the attackers took hostages and kicked off a gun battle with Afghan security forces that lasted until late afternoon.
The death toll made it one of the worst attacks of the 11-year-old war. At least 34 civilians, six Afghan soldiers and four police officers were killed. All nine Taliban attackers also died.
No American or international troops were involved in the fighting. Afghan forces assumed responsibility for security in Farah, the province where the battle took place, in December.
Templeton Foundation honors Tutu with prize
London – The John Templeton Foundation said it has awarded South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu one of the world’s leading religion prizes.
The organization said Tutu, 81, is the winner of the 2013 Templeton Prize for his “lifelong work in advancing spiritual principles.” The honor comes with a $1.7 million award. Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will receive the prize at a ceremony at the Guildhall in London on May 21.
The Templeton Prize was established in 1972 by the investor and philanthropist John Templeton. Last year’s winner was the Dalai Lama.