Middle East

Updated at 6:10 a.m. ET Wednesday

A huge explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, killing at least 100 people and shattering windows and damaging buildings across a wide swath of the city, according to officials. The blast sent a huge mushroom cloud into the sky, seemingly emanating from a spot close to where a large fire had been burning.

The U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January "was unlawful and arbitrary under international law," a U.N. human rights investigator says, calling the drone strike in Baghdad a violation of Iraq's sovereignty.

The investigator also says the U.S. has not produced any proof to back its claim that the attack was justified by the need to stop an imminent attack.

Updated at 9:51 p.m. ET

Members of Congress in both parties demanded answers on Monday about reported bounties paid by Russian operatives to Afghan insurgents for targeting American troops.

The stories appeared to have taken even the most senior lawmakers off guard, and they said they wanted briefings soon from the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

Two days after being sworn in for a second five-year term at a ceremony attended by senior U.S. officials, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reversed his initial refusal to release Taliban prisoners prior to peace talks with the insurgents.

Updated 5:50 p.m. ET

Just days after the U.S. and Taliban announced the terms of a deal lauded as a foundation for peace, Afghanistan is once more embroiled in deadly violence.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria has reached a "horrifying new level," according to a U.N. official.

That's how Mark Lowcock, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, described conditions in northwest Syria, based on eyewitness accounts from U.N. staff in and around Idlib province.

Updated at 8:57 a.m. ET

Afghan forces, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and the Taliban militia will begin a seven-day "reduction in violence" across the country beginning Saturday midnight local time (2:30 p.m. ET Friday) — a possible prelude to a broader peace deal following two decades of war, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

The quasi cease-fire was hammered out during protracted negotiations in Qatar that began in 2018. It could ultimately lead to a significant reduction of the approximately 12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

President Trump's Mideast peace plan was expected to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instantly fulfill a campaign promise to annex occupied land that Israelis and Palestinians have fought over for more than half a century.

But it didn't go as Netanyahu had hoped.

Updated 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper spoke Saturday about a newly reached deal between the U.S. and the Taliban to deescalate the longest-running war in American history.

The "reduction in violence" deal will take place over a seven-day period and ultimately will aim to bring the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to 8,600 from around 12,000 over the following months.

The 8,600 number will still include counterterrorism and training operations.

The European Union expressed major reservations about President Trump's newly unveiled plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it doesn't meet "internationally agreed parameters" on issues such as where Israel's borders should be drawn.

The plan, which has been roundly rejected by Palestinians, sides with Israel on major sticking points such as Jerusalem, settlements in the West Bank and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET

President Trump says his long-awaited Mideast peace plan unveiled Tuesday is a road map for a "realistic two-state solution" that envisions Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital."

A Democratic-led Senate resolution to limit the president's war powers in the wake of escalated tensions with Iran has won support from several key GOP members to potentially gain passage in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Todd Young of Indiana and Susan Collins of Maine have all signed on as co-sponsors to the measure led by Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

Iranian authorities have arrested an undisclosed number of people over the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian airliner. The move comes as Iranians continue to protest against the government over the tragedy. Hours after the arrests, a new video emerged that purportedly shows two missiles hitting the passenger jet.

The White House announced Friday it is imposing additional economic sanctions against Iran, including officials in the Iranian government.

The penalties, promised earlier this week by President Trump, "will cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian regime," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mourners march during the funeral of Iran's top general Qassem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020.
Nasser Nasser / Associated Press

One Ohio professor has a front-row seat to the U.S. conflict with Iran.

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