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Chatter: Middle East tense before latest peace talks

Israel agrees to release Palestinian prisoners — but also approves new settlements, Egypt warns pro-Morsi protesters to clear out, a Nazi war crimes suspect dies before facing trial, and Norway's prime minister takes voters for a ride.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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NEED TO KNOW

Israel's mixed messages. The Israeli government has released a list of 26 Palestinian prisoners to be freed on Tuesday as part of the conditions for resuming peace talks, even as it approved the construction of more than 1,000 new settler homes in occupied territory.

What's a government to do? Palestinian negotiators are furious at the settlement plans, which they say are proof that Israel has no intent of sticking to its agreements. Meanwhile Israeli right-wingers have criticized the decision to release convicted criminals, most of whom were jailed for deadly attacks on Israelis. The freshly resumed talks are due to enter their second round in Jerusalem on Wednesday. It's set to be an awkward meeting.

It could be a crackdown. In Cairo, supporters of Egypt's deposed President Mohamed Morsi are bracing themselves as security forces prepare to disperse them once and for all. Interior ministry sources have warned that an operation to surround the protesters will begin today after a sit-in that has lasted more than four weeks.  

Witnesses say there's no sign of police activity yet at the two main protest camps outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque and in Nahda Square. But the Muslim Brotherhood has urged its supporters to dig in their heels, and warns that any violence "could ignite the whole of Egypt."

WANT TO KNOW

India built that. The Indian navy today launched its first home-built aircraft carrier, becoming one of only five nations ever to do so. The INS Vikrant was unveiled in the southern port of Kochi this morning and is due to enter into full service in 2018.

As with so much of DIY, it's to do with keeping up with the neighbors — or in this case, overtaking them altogether: with today's launch, India has for once beaten China to the punch. India's defense minister calls it "a remarkable milestone"; and it's one that will have cost the country $5 billion.

The late most-wanted. Laszlo Csatari, the Nazi war crimes suspect discovered living in Budapest last year, has died in hospital awaiting trial. He was 98.

Csatari, who was accused of helping deport Jews to Auschwitz and beating Jewish prisoners with dog whips, amongst other crimes, was formerly top of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of suspected Nazi criminals. He denied the charges 'til the end. "Late, but not too late," reads the slogan of the Wiesenthal Center's recently launched appeal for information about the last surviving Nazis who remain free. It soon will be.

London stalling. It's been two years since the 2011 riots that turned parts of the British capital into a war zone. Triggered one August night in north London after police shot a local man dead, the five-day conflagration would spread across the city and the UK, involve 15,000 people, kill five, and cost $775 million.

Two years later, the glass has been swept up and the scorch marks scrubbed away. But across London, many people affected by the riots say matters have yet to be put right. GlobalPost reports from Tottenham, the epicenter of the violence, where the community has been left wondering what recovery really means.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Taxi drivers have a reputation for mouthing off. But there's one cabbie who really, really wants to know what his passengers think: Norway's prime minister. PM Jens Stoltenberg has revealed that he disguised himself as an Oslo taxi driver two months ago in order to hear voters' uncensored views on his government's performance.

Despite his cunning disguise of, er, sunglasses, it seems most of Stoltenberg's passengers spotted something unusual about their driver right off. "Have you quit as prime minister?" wonders one, according to a dashboard video of the PM's adventures. "Your driving is really bad," says another, bluntly. Better stick to the day job.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-middle-east-tense-latest-peace-talks