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Middle East

Kaari Pitkin / WNYC

In a two-bedroom apartment in a suburb of New Haven, about 20 volunteers are preparing an apartment for a Syrian family set to arrive in a few hours. They’re scrubbing kitchen grease off the stove top, putting up new blinds for privacy, and arranging furniture.

Jason Greenblatt, who went from being President Trump's longtime lawyer to leading his effort to bring a lasting peace to Israel, met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Tuesday, one day after Greenblatt met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks that touched on Israeli settlement construction.

The State Department calls this an "orientation trip" that's meant to hear from the two sides about returning to peace negotiations.

From Jerusalem, NPR's Daniel Estrin reports for our Newscast unit:

Violence in Syria took a horrible toll on the country's children last year, the United Nations' children's agency says, with the civil war blamed for killing at least 652 children — 255 of whom were either in or near a school.

In another unsettling trend, 851 children were recruited and used in the conflict in 2016 — double the figure who were recruited in 2015, UNICEF says. The agency says that children's deaths rose 20 percent and injuries rose by 25 percent.

The world is facing its greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945, says the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O'Brien.

O'Brien told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that more than 20 million people across four countries in Africa and the Middle East are at risk of starvation and famine.

"We stand at a critical point in our history," he said. "Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death."

TiAnna Taylor / WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy has reiterated his opposition to the Trump administration’s reissued travel ban, which ends refugee resettlement and travel from six majority Muslim countries. 

Jesse Costa / WBUR

Volunteer lawyers in Boston are standing by Monday in anticipation of the impact of President Donald Trump's revised executive order halting travel for immigrants from six Muslim-majority nations. The president's existing order was put on hold by federal courts. The new order was signed on Monday, and goes into effect on March 16.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

President Trump has signed a new executive order that temporarily blocks visas from being issued to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries, revoking and replacing a controversial, now-suspended executive order known as the travel ban.

Lydia Brown / WNPR

Robert Ford, the former U.S. Ambassador to Syria under President Obama, said America missed several key opportunities to intervene in that country's civil war.

Lydia Brown / WNPR

The Syrian conflict -- will it ever end? This hour, we sit down with former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. We get his take on the country’s civil war and refugee crisis, and discuss the future of U.S. intervention under President Trump. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut U.S. Marine Michael Zacchea had a job to do in 2004: train and lead the first Iraqi Army battalion after the U.S. disbanded the country’s military post invasion.

A bomb exploded in Iraq's capital city on Thursday, killing at least 45 people.

It happened on a street filled with car dealerships and garages in southern Baghdad, according to Reuters. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility in a statement released on social media that said the group was targeting Shiites Muslims.

A family of Syrian refugees landed Friday at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, completing a journey that almost never happened.

When we last heard from Philip, an Iraqi interpreter living in Minnesota, he was trying to bring his family to the U.S.

Philip came to the United States in 2013 and was living with Paul Braun, the sergeant of the company he was assigned to in Iraq. Braun and Philip spoke to StoryCorps in 2014.

"You scared me, dude," Philip says. "Your attitude in the beginning and with your Mohawk — "

UMass Amherst

Over the last several days, a UMass Amherst student from Iran has been denied access to a flight out of Tehran, where he traveled over winter break to get married.

In the U.S., protests, confusion and anger have followed President Trump’s executive order that prevents new refugees from entering the country for 120 days, suspends resettlement for Syrians indefinitely and bars travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.

For people working to bring Syrian refugees to the United States, President Trump’s executive order is throwing those plans into chaos.

Saira Rafiee boarded a plane in Tehran this weekend on her way to New York. She had been visiting family in Iran and needed to get back to the U.S. in time for classes at City University of New York's Graduate Center, where she is a Ph.D. student in political science. But, as a result of President Trump's executive order restricting the travel of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, Rafiee says she was detained in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and, after nearly 18 hours, sent back to Tehran.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Plans for at least a dozen refugee families scheduled to arrive in New Haven in the next few weeks have been thrown into question after President Donald Trump announced his new executive order on immigration. 

Two famous ancient structures in the city of Palmyra have been destroyed by ISIS forces, Syria's antiquities chief says.

The Tetrapylon and the facade of the city's Roman theater have both been almost completely demolished, the official says, according to NPR's Alison Meuse.

"Activist Khaled al-Homsi, who is from Palmyra, shared satellite imagery to Twitter, which appears to confirm the scale of the damage," Alison reports. "The face of the Roman theater is a pile of rubble and only four of the Tetrapylon's 16 columns appear to be standing."

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Immigrants in Connecticut come from many different backgrounds. They’re white-collar or blue-collar workers; they’re artists and students. We have an occasional series on Where We Live that highlights their stories.

Updated Jan. 1 at 9:56 a.m. ET

At least 39 people were killed and 69 others wounded during New Year's celebrations Saturday after a gunman opened fire at an Istanbul nightclub. At least 16 of those killed were foreign nationals.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters that the attacker entered the Reina nightclub and began shooting at random, NPR's Peter Kenyon tells our newscast. The killer then changed clothes and left, says the minister.

Agreement Reached On Syria Cease-Fire

Dec 29, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in Moscow that the Syrian government and Syrian opposition forces have agreed to a nationwide cease-fire to begin at midnight local time.

The Syrian army said the agreement excludes the Islamic State as well as Jabhat Fateh al Sham — the group formerly known as the Nusra Front — and all groups linked to them. Turkey's foreign ministry said the agreement excludes groups the U.N. deems terrorist organizations.

With his tenure as secretary of state rapidly pulling to a close, John Kerry made an impassioned defense for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday.

Kerry said he is concerned that some Israeli politicians are rejecting it.

"If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it cannot be both, and it won't ever really be at peace," said Kerry.

Evacuations continue from east Aleppo, as remaining rebels and civilians wait in freezing weather for transportation out of the city.

The end of the evacuations may be coming soon: NPR's Alice Fordham reports that regime forces might be entering the tiny enclave that has been held by rebels as early as Thursday evening.

The fall of eastern Aleppo to the forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar Assad has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now. The question was whether civilians and fighters would be allowed to leave.

Next month, a mix of Syrian and Iraqi refugees will begin arriving in Rutland, Vermont. They’ll be the first of 100 that will be resettled there over the next year. Though there's been loud opposition to the plan in the aging, blue-collar city of 16,000, proponents remain optimistic — and many have been volunteering long hours to ensure the plan succeeds.

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