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Ed Miliband condemns new Israeli settlements

Labour leader Ed Miliband has condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank and warned they pose a "mortal threat" to hopes of securing a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.

Ed Miliband has met children in the West Bank today Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Miliband, who is an atheist of Jewish descent, said he was a supporter of "the homeland for the Jewish people" but has made clear he does not give blanket backing to the actions of the Israeli government.

The Labour leader made his strongest criticism yet during a visit to the Middle East, blasting the policy as "wrong and illegal."

The Labour leader said: "What I have seen today shows that the expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank is not only wrong and illegal but represents a mortal threat to the two-state solution and to a successful outcome of the peace process."

He is on the last leg of a three-day visit and will stay overnight in Ramallah, in central West Bank, tonight - the first leading British politician to be able to do so as a result of improved security conditions.

Israel cancels release of Palestinian prisoners

Israel has cancelled its last release of Palestinian prisoners because of the Palestinians' push for recognition at the United States, Israel's chief negotiator said. Tzipiz Livni said the decision to seek accessions through the UN violated the terms set for the prisoners' release.

The impasses over the prisoners throws further doubts about the outcome of the US-led peace negotiations. The talks had been scheduled to last until the end of the month, but both sides appear to be wavering.

For the families of those Palestinians due for release, the decision brings fresh heartache as their hopes are dashed at the last minute. Middle East Correspondent Geraint Vincent reports.

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Israel seizes munitions shipment 'from Iran to Gaza'

The Israeli army says it has seized a large shipment of munitions being sent from Iran to Palestinian groups on the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli Defence Forces Twitter account shared the following images:

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Our forces have unloaded these weapons from #Iran onto #Israel's shores. Later today, we will tweet all the evidence http://t.co/7zCzv0feCk

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#EXCLUSIVE: Mortars from #Iran's weapons shipment to terrorists. The weapons are safely on #Israel's shores #IranFail http://t.co/109OnXpkar

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Palestinians burn pictures of Ariel Sharon

Palestinians hand out sweets as they celebrate the passing of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Palestinians hand out sweets as they celebrate the passing of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Credit: Reuters

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank celebrated the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Saturday.

In Gaza, crowds gathered to burn pictures of Sharon, and hand out sweets.

Women ululated while others stamped a photograph of Sharon into the ground.

Palestinians burn crossed-out posters depicting late former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Palestinians burn crossed-out posters depicting late former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Credit: Reuters

Read more - Hamas: We feel 'extreme happiness' at Sharon death

Palestinians stand on crossed-out posters depicting late former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Palestinians stand on crossed-out posters depicting late former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Credit: Reuters

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Kerry: Progress made toward Israel Palestine deal

John Kerry in conversation with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah today. Credit: Reuters

Israel and the Palestinians are making progress towards reaching a framework peace agreement but they are not there yet, US Secretary of State John Kerry has told reporters.

Kerry was speaking after about three hours of talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of government in the West Bank.

Kerry is on his tenth trip to the region in the past year as he seeks to secure a peace deal. He said he would visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss the talks with King Abdullah.

Israel frees Palestinian prisoners as part of peace deal

Israel has freed 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal that set in motion the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

A released Palestinian prisoner reacts upon his arrival at the Erez crossing between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip .
A released Palestinian prisoner reacts upon his arrival at the Erez crossing between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip . Credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The decision to release the 26 has triggered anguish and anger in Israel, where many view the men as terrorists who have committed terrible crimes against Israelis.

Palestinian women celebrate as they wait for the release of prisoners from Israel.
Palestinian women celebrate as they wait for the release of prisoners from Israel. Credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

But there were celebrations on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where the prisoners are seen as heroes who fought for independence, and were received by their families and Palestinian leaders.

A released Palestinian prisoner reacts upon his arrival to the northrn Gaza Strip.
A released Palestinian prisoner reacts upon his arrival to the northrn Gaza Strip. Credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

The release was part of an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry that brought Israel and the Palestinians back to the table for peace talks that had been paralysed since 2008.

Israeli soldiers disciplined for dancing with Palestinians

A group of Israeli soldiers who were filmed dancing to Gangnam Style with Palestinians while on patrol in the West Bank have been disciplined by their superiors.

The Israeli military said it considered the incident "serious" and added: "The soldiers exposed themselves to unnecessary danger and were disciplined accordingly".

The footage, posted on YouTube and aired on Israeli TV, showed the armed soldiers in uniform dancing hand in hand and on the shoulders of Palestinian partygoers in Hebron, a common flashpoint for violence in the conflict.

One YouTube commenter suggested the soldiers should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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