Syria

Thousands flee airstrikes

Airstrikes pounded rebel-held areas in southwestern Syria on Thursday, killing at least 17 civilians in an underground shelter and driving thousands from their homes, as scores of displaced people protested near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, demanding international protection. The Syrian government pressed ahead with its offensive to reclaim the strategic region that extends along the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights, and which was until recently part of a U.S.-backed and negotiated truce.

Refugees begin trek home

Hundreds of displaced Syrians left Lebanon for their war-torn homeland Thursday. Khaled Abdul-Aziz, a Syrian who heads a committee for the returnees, said 472 Syrians were expected to make the crossing Thursday after requesting permission from the Lebanese and Syrian governments. They are part of a total of 3,194 Syrians who have registered to return, he said, adding that the rest will head back in batches in the coming weeks.

Belgium

Migrant plan moves ahead

European Union leaders vowed Thursday to move forward with plans to screen migrants in North Africa for asylum eligibility to try to stem the flow of those making the perilous journey to the continent by sea, part of a desperate attempt to shore up EU unity on an issue that has helped fuel a political crisis. No North African countries have agreed so far to sign on to the plan being presented at a two-day EU summit, though possible EU funding that could bring billions in aid may prove persuasive. Italy also held up any interim agreements at the summit unless it received concrete commitments that the country would get help managing the waves of newcomers arriving from across the Mediterranean Sea.

Israel

American-Israeli convicted

An Israeli court on Thursday convicted a dual American-Israeli citizen on charges including extortion for making a string of bomb threats targeting U.S. Jewish community centers, airlines and shopping malls. Michael Ron David Kadar was arrested in March 2017 after a trans-Atlantic investigation with the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies. Police said the 19-year-old, from southern Israel, used advanced technologies to mask the origin of his contacts with synagogues and public venues.

Beacon Journal/Ohio.com wires