Egypt blocks Gaza border, Hamas calls closure ‘unjustified’

Egyptian police angered by the kidnapping of seven colleagues by Islamist gunmen kept a crossing into Gaza closed again yesterday, stranding hundreds of Palestinian travelers, witnesses said. The protest began Friday when police strung barbed wire across the Rafah border post and chained up the gates, local residents said, a day after the abductions. Gunmen demanding the release of jailed Islamist militants had seized seven policemen and soldiers on a road between the Sinai towns of el-Arish and Rafah. Three of those abducted had worked at the Rafah crossing, locals said. ‏(Reuters‏)

German foreign minister to Peres: Nuclear-armed Iran is not an option

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told President Shimon Peres on Friday that an Iran possessing nuclear weapons is “not an option for Germany.” Westerwelle also voiced support for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to renew Israel-Palestinian peace talks. “I promise you, Germany is 100 percent behind Kerry’s initiative,” Westerwelle told Peres in Jerusalem, adding that renewing talks “is not only in the interest of two states and two peoples, but in the interest of the entire world.” ‏(Haaretz Staff‏)

Obama seeks to cut Afghan war spending by 10 percent

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday trimmed his funding request for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations by 10 percent, reflecting his plans to wind down the U.S. presence in that country. The president asked for $79.4 billion to fund so-called overseas contingency operations in fiscal 2014, which begins on October 1, down from his original $88.5 billion request, a White House aide said. Obama made the request in a letter to Congress. He has said he plans to draw down troops in Afghanistan after 2014 but has not specified by how much. ‏(Reuters‏)

Northeast Japan jolted by 5.9-magnitude quake; no tsunami warning

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 rocked northeastern Japan yesterday, but no tsunami warning was issued, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s two nuclear plants in Fukushima reported no new irregularities after the quake, Kyodo news agency added. Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi prefecture further north also detected no irregularities, operator Tohoku Electric Power Co. said. In Miyagi prefecture, where the shaking was the strongest, there was no information on injuries, Kyodo added. ‏(Reuters‏)