Afghans Kick Off Massive Audit of Presidential Election Ballots

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-07_7970ba68c9.jpgiStock/Thinkstock (KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The countdown is on in Afghanistan. Election workers began the arduous task Thursday of auditing eight million ballots cast in June's presidential election runoff that will ultimately determine who will lead Afghanistan for the next five years: former foreigner minister Abdullah Abdullah or one-time finance minister Ashraf Ghani.

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Kerry Calls on Netanyahu to De-Escalate Crisis in Gaza

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-07_7abd8fd71d.jpgU.S. Department of State (JERUSALEM) -- Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to emphasize the need to avoid further escalation between Israel and Hamas. Kerry urged the leader to restore the 2012 cease-fire as soon as possible, while Netanyahu described Thursday's terrorist attack near Kibbutz Sufa and the imminent threat to Israeli civilians posed by Hamas tunnels from the Gaza Strip, according to the State Department.

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Mortars Fired at Israel During Humanitarian Cease-Fire

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-07_09baf7021b.jpgDavid Silverman/Getty Images (JERUSALEM) -- Mortars were fired at Israel during a five-hour cease-fire Thursday, the latest salvo in the 10-day conflict between Hamas and Israel that has left 227 dead. The sides were slated to participate in the cease-fire from 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. EST) until 3 p.m. (8 a.m. EST).

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State Department: Afghan Election Audits Set

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-07_f994ffc274.jpgU.S. Department of State (KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan is set to begin its audit of all the country's ballot boxes Thursday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaky announced. Initially, the review of nearly 8 million votes was scheduled for July 13, 24 hours after both presidential candidates agreed to the audit plan.

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Israel, Hamas Agree to Five-Hour Humanitarian Aid Cease-Fire

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-07_65cf60de63.jpgDavid Silverman/Getty Images (JERUSALEM) -- Israel agreed Wednesday to halt its attack on Hamas targets in Gaza for five hours on Thursday to allow residents of Gaza to get food and other humanitarian aid. Israel agreed to suspend its attacks after the United Nations appealed for a break in the violence for humanitarian reasons.

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