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JERUSALEM (AP) — A dispute over metal detectors is escalating into a new showdown between Israel and the Muslim world over a Jerusalem shrine that has triggered major Israeli-Palestinian confrontations in the past.

Israel says installing the devices at the gates to the walled compound after Palestinians launched an attack there last week is a routine security measure. Palestinians claim Israel is trying to expand control over the Muslim-run site that is also revered by Jews.

Muslim worshippers have stepped up protests following an appeal from clerics to pray in the streets rather than submit to the new procedures. The confrontation could come to a head Friday, the highlight of the Muslim religious week, when tens of thousands typically converge on the holy site for prayers.

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WHAT CAUSED THE LATEST TENSIONS?

Three members of Israel’s Arab Muslim minority fired from the sacred compound at a police post near one of the gates on Friday, killing two Israeli officers before being shot dead. Israel’s police chief said they had hidden weapons in the compound beforehand and ordered it closed for two days of searches. The closure marked only the third time the shrine had been closed since Israel captured Jerusalem’s Old City and its holy sites, along with other territories, in 1967.

On Sunday, Israel began gradually reopening the site. By Tuesday, five of the eight gates used by Muslims had been fitted with metal detectors, and three of those five gates were open, Muslim officials said. A ninth gate, used by non-Muslim visitors, previously had been fitted with metal detectors and was also open Tuesday.

WHY IS THE SHRINE IMPORTANT?

The Jerusalem landmark is the centerpiece of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, looming large in rival national and religious narratives.

Jews revere it as the Temple Mount, or home of biblical Temples destroyed two millennia ago. It is the holiest site of their religion. For now, Jews worship at the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the compound.

Muslims believe the hilltop compound marks the spot from which Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Known to them as the Noble Sanctuary, it is the third holiest site of Islam and houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques.

WHO CONTROLS IT?

After capturing east Jerusalem, including its Old City, and the West Bank in 1967, Israel sought to avoid a confrontation with the Muslim world. It allowed Muslims to keep administering the Jerusalem compound. Jews could visit, but not pray there.

Jordan, east Jerusalem’s pre-1967 ruler, remained custodian of the shrine. Employees of the Muslim administration, or Waqf, stayed on Jordan’s payroll.

For decades, the status quo held, in part because leading rabbis, citing religious purity laws, banned Jews from entering. In recent years, religious opinion has shifted, and growing numbers of Jews are visiting the compound, with Israeli police and Waqf guards enforcing the no-prayer rule.

This shift has stoked Muslim fears of a purported Israeli plan to expand Jewish control there. Israel has denied this, most recently after the weekend attack when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the “status quo will be preserved.”

WHO IS THE GATEKEEPER?

The two sides disagree.

Jordan and the Waqf have said that after 1967, the Waqf remained in charge of who can enter the compound. They said this rule was in place until 2000, when a provocative visit to the site by then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon helped trigger a Palestinian uprising that only ebbed in 2005.

Israel says it has always been in charge of security at the compound, including the gates.

In recent years, Israeli security forces have typically been posted outside the gates, conducting spot checks of some of those entering or holding the ID cards of suspected troublemakers until the end of prayers. At times of heightened tensions, police enforce Israeli access restrictions, such as an entry ban for men below a certain age.

Waqf guards are posted inside the gates and have the right to turn any visitors away.

THE ISRAELI VIEW

Israel says the metal detectors are a routine security measure.

“Two Israeli police officers were just murdered on the Temple Mount by terrorists who smuggled in guns,” government spokesman David Keyes said Tuesday. “Magnetometers are vital for security. That’s why they are at the Western Wall and at holy sites around the world.”

Police would not say what was found in the search of the compound. On Sunday, Israel’s Army Radio quoted the Jerusalem police chief as saying officers found dozens of knives as well as slingshots, stun grenades and binoculars, but no guns or live ammunition.

Israel previously accused Waqf officials of allowing Palestinian protesters to hoard stones, sticks and firecrackers for use in confrontations with police.

THE PALESTINIAN VIEW

Muslim clerics and Palestinian politicians contend Israel is changing the status quo under the guise of security,

Ikrema Sabri, a top Muslim official, said installing the detectors “is an attempt to impose Israeli sovereignty over the mosque” compound.

Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the Palestinian autonomy government in the West Bank, expressed his “absolute rejection of Israel’s security pretexts in changing the status quo.” He also warned of a “deterioration of the security situation” if the measures continue.

The local Muslim leadership and the Jordanian-run Waqf have urged the faithful to pray in “streets and alleys” rather than pass through the metal detectors.

Since Sunday, there have been sporadic clashes between small groups of Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli security forces in and near the Old City. Meanwhile, worshippers have lined up in the streets, dozens at a time, to perform prayers in the streets.

MUSLIM ARAB WORLD

The Arab League, an umbrella group of Arab countries, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have issued separate statements calling on Israel to lift the security measures.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke by phone with Netanyahu on Saturday, before the reopening of the shrine, to condemn the attack but also call for de-escalation. The two countries have discreet security ties, but frequently clash over Israel’s policies at the Jerusalem site.

Jordan’s ruling Hashemite dynasty, with ancestry said to go back to Prophet Muhammad, derives much of its legitimacy from custodianship over the shrine.

Underscoring the importance of that role, a headline Tuesday in the state-run Jordan Times daily read: “Arab League praises king’s efforts to protect Jerusalem.”

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MOSCOW (AP) — Separatists in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday proclaimed a new state that aspires to include not only the areas they control but also the rest of the country. But Russia, their chief backer, sought to play down the announcement, saying it was merely part of public discussion.

The surprise announcement in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk casts further doubt on the 2015 cease-fire deal that was supposed to stop fighting in Ukraine’s industrial heartland and bring those areas back into Kiev’s fold while granting them wide autonomy. Some rebels said they have no intention of joining the new state.

More than 10,000 people have died in fighting since Russia-backed rebels took control of parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions in April 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The rebels originally sought to join Russia but the Kremlin stopped short of annexing the area or publicizing its military support for the rebels.

Donetsk separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said in comments broadcast on Russian television that rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk as well as representatives of other Ukrainian regions would form a state called Malorossiya.

Most of the areas which are currently part of Ukraine were referred to as Malorossiya, or Little Russia, when they were part of the Russian Empire.

Zakharchenko said they are drawing up a constitution that would be put up to a popular vote.

“We believe that the Ukrainian state as it was cannot be restored,” Zakharchenko said in remarks carried by the Tass news agency. “We, representatives of the regions of the former Ukraine, excluding Crimea, proclaim the creation of a new state which is a successor to Ukraine.”

Although separatists in the east have some sympathizers in other Ukrainian regions, they have not attempted to capture territories there, nor do they have any political representation there.

France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia worked out an agreement in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, in 2015 which laid out a roadmap for ending the conflict between government troops and separatists. Under the deal, the rebels would return control of the territories they had captured to Kiev while Kiev would allow a local election there and grant wide autonomy to the region.

While the deal helped to reduce the intensity of fighting, none of the political components has been implemented.

Breaking several hours of silence that passed after the separatists’ announcement Tuesday, Boris Gryzlov, Russia’s envoy mediating the peace talks in Minsk, dismissed the idea as public discussion.

“This initiative does not fit with the Minsk process,” Gryzlov told Russian news agencies. “I see it merely as an invitation for discussion. This announcement does not have entail any legal consequences.”

While the separatists are believed to be guided by the Kremlin, they have made statements in the past that clearly caught Moscow off guard.

Yevgen Marchuk, Ukraine’s envoy at the talks, said on the 112 television channel that the announcement, made one day before the next round of talks in Minsk, “could block the negotiations entirely.”

In Luhansk, rebel leaders denied that they were part of the deal. Local news website Luhansk Information Center quoted rebel representative Vladimir Degtyarenko as saying they had not been informed of the plans and have “great doubts about the expediency of such a step.”

Throughout the conflict, the rebel-controlled areas have been ruled by self-proclaimed authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk who call themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Separatist leaders in Luhansk, unlike their counterparts in Donetsk, have tended to stay away from directly expressing intentions to join Russia.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday accused Russia of directing the rebels’ hand in making the announcement and seeking to split Ukraine in pieces.

“You should understand that Zakharchenko and (rebel leader) Plotnitsky are not political actors,” he said, dismissing them as “puppets” whose only job is to voice “the messages they receive from Russia.”

Poroshenko said Ukraine is committed to the peace accords and pledged to restore control over eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

Kiev-based political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko speculated that the Kremlin had instigated the announcement, perhaps trying to scare the West with a possibility of Ukraine’s breakup.

“The Kremlin is no longer trying to push this malignant tumor back into the body of Ukraine,” Fesenko said, adding that it is too early to predict the fallout of Tuesday’s announcement because Zakharchenko is known for making outlandish claims.

The Associated Press has documented how Moscow has been propping up the separatists in Ukraine with funds, weapons and recruits. The Kremlin has firmly denied sending Russian troops to fight alongside the separatists despite the overwhelming evidence.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Police in Saudi Arabia have arrested a young woman who wore a miniskirt in public and who had posted the video online, sparking an outcry from people who say she flagrantly violated the kingdom’s conservative Islamic dress code.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run TV reported Tuesday that police in the capital, Riyadh, arrested the woman for wearing “immodest clothes” and referred her case to the country’s public prosecutor.

The young Saudi woman drew attention over the weekend when she shared on Snapchat a video of herself walking in a historic village north of the capital wearing a miniskirt and crop top, and showing her hair.

Saudi Arabia has strict dress codes for men and women. Women must wear loose, long robes and most also cover their face.

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal of its nationwide ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious denomination.

The court’s appeals chamber has upheld the April approval of the Russian Justice Ministry’s call to halt Jehovah’s Witnesses activities and to declare it an extremist organization.

The rejection of the religious group’s appeal allows Russia to liquidate the 395 Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations and seize their property. The group claims about 170,000 adherents in Russia.

Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman David Semonian said in a statement that “it’s very concerning that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, powerful elements within Russia continue to frame our organization as extremist.”

Viktor Zhenkov, a Russian attorney for the group, said Monday’s ruling would be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, according to the Interfax news agency.

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BEIRUT (AP) — U.S.-backed Syrian fighters fought Islamic State militants in the heart of Raqqa, the extremists’ self-styled capital, on Monday, as scores of civilians fled areas controlled by the group.

The Kurdish-led group has been one of the most effective forces fighting IS in Syria, but has also clashed with Turkish-backed Syrian forces elsewhere in the country. As it battled IS in Raqqa, the SDF also fought Turkish-allied Syrian forces in Ein Daqna, in the neighboring Aleppo province, according to Syrian activists and Turkish media.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, aided by the U.S.-led coalition, launched their offensive to capture Raqqa on June 6, and have since taken several areas. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday’s fighting is concentrated in Raqqa’s southwestern neighborhood of Yarmouk as well as a central area close to the Old City.

The SDF says intense fighting is underway in central Raqqa, adding that its fighters have taken positions near a centuries-old mosque known as the Old Mosque.

The SDF said 11 IS fighters have been killed in the clashes since Sunday. The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said 14 SDF fighters were killed in the fighting in Raqqa on Sunday alone.

The intensification of fighting comes a week after Iraqi forces declared victory against IS in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the largest the extremists have held. The loss of Raqqa would deal a major blow to IS, but the group still holds wide areas of the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, bordering Iraq.

The Kurdish-run Hawar news agency says some 180 civilians were able to flee areas controlled by IS, while the Observatory put the number in the hundreds.

The SDF is dominated by a Kurdish militia known as the YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency raging in its own territory. Turkish troops and allied Syrian forces rolled into Syria last year in order to battle IS and halt the advance of the SDF. The U.S.-led coalition has sought to stop the fighting between Turkey and the SDF, both of which are allies against IS.

The website of Turkey’s pro-government A Haber television said Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters launched a “large” operation against the SDF in Ein Daqna, close to the Turkish border. The website quotes unnamed local sources as saying that intense clashes are ongoing.

The Observatory said Monday’s fighting killed two Turkey-backed fighters and left several SDF fighters wounded. A Haber said at least one Turkish-backed fighter was killed and some 14 were wounded.

Rezan Hiddo, an SDF political officer, said the group had repelled the assault on Ein Daqna. Hiddo said Turkish artillery struck the village as well as near a Russian military outpost in nearby Kafr Janneh, which is also under SDF control. Russia deployed what it called observer units into the region earlier this year to discourage clashes between Turkey and the SDF.

“We are waiting for the American government to apply diplomatic pressure on Turkey to halt the aggression,” said Hiddo.

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HARGEISA, Somalia (AP) — Somalia’s internet has returned after an outage of more than three weeks cost the Horn of Africa nation about $10 million a day, authorities said Monday.

Hormuud Telecom, the country’s largest telecom company, announced the restoration of service in a message to subscribers.

The loss of internet service sparked anger across Somalia and affected the central and southern parts of the country including the capital, Mogadishu. The government called it a “major disaster.”

Officials and internet providers attributed the problem to a commercial ship that they said cut an undersea cable.

Major companies reported millions of dollars in revenue losses. University studies were disrupted.

The internet outage also complicated efforts to combat a nationwide drought that has half of the country’s 12 million people in need of assistance.

Residents in the capital celebrated the return of service. “This is really good news. We had faced weeks of blackout that hit our businesses so hard,” said Ahmed Mohamed, the manager of a travel agency that had to close during the outage.

The lack of internet service also stranded patients who were seeking medical attention abroad as they couldn’t access online paperwork.

“The internet outage had my father stuck in Mogadishu. Now we can take him to India having received all medical paperwork via internet,” said Nur Hussein.

Somalia is trying to emerge from a quarter-century of conflict. The fragile central government remains a target for the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group, which often carries out deadly attacks in the capital.

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Monday considered tougher sanctions on North Korea over its first intercontinental ballistic missile test to prevent the isolated country from funding further nuclear weapons development.

And the EU nations insisted North Korea shouldn’t expect the 28-nation bloc to make any early concessions.

“There are some people who think we should engage early with Pyongyang. We absolutely disagree. They got to make a serious move towards denuclearizing their country,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

In a statement Monday, the EU foreign ministers condemned the test earlier this month as a “serious threat to international peace and security” and urged an end to such actions.

In addition to existing sanctions, the statement said that the EU “will consider further appropriate responses” in coordination with allies and U.N. efforts.

The EU also offered European support for South Korean efforts to negotiate with North Korea.

The missile launch has stoked international security fears. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would never negotiate his weapons programs unless the U.S. abandons its hostile policy toward his country.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of a Qatari government news site in May, planting a false story that was used as a pretext for the current crisis between Qatar and several Arab countries, according to a Sunday report by The Washington Post.

The Emirati Embassy in Washington released a statement in response calling the Post report “false” and insisting that the UAE “had no role whatsoever” in the alleged hacking.

The report quotes unnamed U.S. intelligence officials as saying that senior members of the Emirati government discussed the plan on May 23. On the following day, a story appeared on the Qatari News Agency’s website quoting a speech by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in which he allegedly praised Iran and said Qatar has a good relationship with Israel. Similarly incendiary statements appeared on the news agency’s Twitter feed.

The agency quickly claimed it was hacked and removed the article. But Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt all blocked Qatari media and later severed diplomatic ties.

The ongoing crisis has threatened to complicate the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State group as all participants are U.S. allies and members of the anti-IS coalition. Qatar is home to more than 10,000 U.S. troops and the regional headquarters of the U.S. Central Command while Bahrain is the home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

President Donald Trump has sided strongly with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the dispute, publicly backing their contention that Doha is a supporter of Islamic militant groups and a destabilizing force in the Middle East. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently concluded several days of shuttle diplomacy in the Gulf, but he departed the region without any public signs of a resolution.

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s protracted war killed a record number of civilians during the first six months of this year, according to a U.N. report released Monday, which blamed the majority of the deaths on bombings by insurgents.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the “horrifying” figure of 1,662 people killed between January and June of this year “can never fully convey the sheer human suffering of the people of Afghanistan.”

“Each one of these casualty figures reflects a broken family, unimaginable trauma and suffering and the brutal violation of people’s human rights,” he added.

The report confirmed that a massive truck bomb in the center of Kabul on May 31, which killed at least 90 people, was the deadliest attack since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in 2001. It also noted that more women and children were among the dead this year.

Insurgent attacks killed 1,141 civilians, a 12 per cent increase over the same period last year, according to the report, which said such attacks wounded another 2,348 people.

The report commended Afghanistan’s security forces, saying fewer civilians were caught in the crossfire compared to last year. It said 434 civilians were killed during military operations against insurgents.

Gen. Dowlat Waziri, a Defense Ministry spokesman, blamed the high toll on the insurgents’ use of human shields. “The army is being very careful during operations to prevent civilian deaths,” Waziri told The Associated Press.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the “biased” report, saying it did not take into account civilians killed by Afghan and coalition forces in areas controlled by the Taliban. He did not provide any figures and there was no way to verify his claims.

The insurgents have expanded their footprint in Afghanistan since U.S. and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, and the Taliban now control a number of districts across the country.

The Afghan government said Monday that troops retook a key district in the southern Helmand province from the Taliban. The fighting in the Naway district was fierce, with more than 50 Taliban killed, according to Waziri, who said just five security forces were wounded. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.

Naway is located just 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Lashkar Gah, and had been a staging area for militant attacks on the provincial capital. U.S. and NATO forces are assisting Afghan troops in Helmand.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the Taliban snatched three border police officers from their car in the western Herat province, including a woman, and killed them, said Jelani Farhad, the provincial governor’s spokesman.

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Foes of President Nicolas Maduro said more than 7 million Venezuelans cast symbolic votes rejecting his plan to retool the constitution in a strong but not overwhelming showing that left the opposition facing tough choices two weeks before the socialist leader seeks to reshape the political system.

The vote was marred by violence when a 61-year-old woman was killed and four people wounded by gunfire after government supporters on motorcycles swarmed an opposition polling site in a church in western Caracas.

Analysts said the 7,186,170 ballots the opposition says were cast across Venezuela and around the world on Sunday was an impressive show of support. However, it fell short of the opposition’s 7.7 million-vote showing in 2015 legislative elections and the 7.5 million votes that brought Maduro to power in 2013. Opposition leaders said that was because it was only able to set up 2,000 polling places in a symbolic exercise the government labeled as illegitimate.

Still, some supporters said they were disappointed.

“I thought it was going to be more,” said Mariela Arana, a 56-year-old school counselor. “But these seven million people spoke and it was plenty.”

David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela, said the result would likely rally the international community even more strongly against the July 30 vote Maduro has called to elect members of the assembly that will rewrite Venezuela’s 1999 constitution. The opposition says that vote has been structured to pack the constitutional assembly with government supporters and allow Maduro to eliminate the few remaining checks on his power, creating a Cuba-style system dominated by his socialist party.

Inside Venezuela, Smilde said leaders of the 20-odd groups in the Democratic Unity opposition coalition were now faced with choosing between tactics ranging from calling a general strike to forming a parallel government to simply working to rally international condemnation of Maduro’s plans.

“Overall, this vote, I think, makes it difficult for the government to just proceed as planned,” Smilde said. “I think it’s going to embolden the international community to reject it.”

Canada and Mexico were among the countries that issued statements Sunday evening lauding the opposition exercise.

Late Sunday, Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada said on Twitter that he was declaring former Mexican President Vicente Fox persona non grata and banning him from the country for conspiring to promote violence and foreign intervention. Fox traveled to Venezuela Saturday with a group of Latin American former presidents to show support for the referendum. Moncada offered no evidence to support his accusations.

The opposition released only turnout numbers Sunday night, not tallies of responses to those questions, although virtually all who voted were believed to have answered “yes” to the central rejection of the constitutional rewrite.

Pro-government paramilitary groups attacked voters outside the Our Lady of Carmen Church around 3 p.m., according to the opposition mayor of the Caracas borough of Sucre, Carlos Ocariz. The chief prosecutor’s office said Xiomara Soledad Scott, a nurse, had been killed and four others wounded in the incident.

Video posted to social media showed massive crowds outside the church, then hundreds of people running in panic outside the church as motorcycle-riding men zoomed past and shots rang out.

Maduro called for an end to violence that he blamed on the opposition.

“I’m calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk,” Maduro said. “Let’s start a new round of talks, of dialogue for peace.”

In smaller numbers in many parts of the capital, government supporters went to polling stations in a rehearsal for the July 30 vote.

“Our president Chavez supported the poor, the people,” said Yveth Melendez, a 41-year-old homemaker waiting outside a school in the south Caracas neighborhood of El Valle, a stronghold of government support that has been weakening in recent years. “Today we’re following his legacy, with President Nicolas Maduro … The constitutional assembly is something that benefits the people.”

But Isabel Santander, a 67-year-old retired auditor, said she was voting against the constitutional assembly as a protest against the country’s economic collapse.

“I signed because there’s no medicine, no food, no security,” she said. “There’s no separation of powers, no freedom of expression.”

Maduro and the military dominate most state institutions but the opposition controls the congress and holds three of 23 governorships. The country’s chief prosecutor has recently broken with the ruling party.

The opposition called backers to 2,000 sites across the country to fill out ballots featuring three yes-or-no questions. Do they reject the constitutional assembly? Do they want the armed forces to back congress? Do they support the formation of a government comprised both of Maduro backers and opponents?

Opponents of Venezuela’s government blame it for turning one of the region’s most prosperous countries into an economic basket case with a shrinking economy, soaring inflation and widespread shortages. The government blames the crisis on an economic war waged by its opponents and outside backers.

Clashes between protesters and police have left at least 93 people dead, 1,500 wounded and more than 500 behind bars.

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