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  |   March 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Israel launches missile at Syrian border

JERUSALEM, March 24 (UPI) -- Two Syrian soldiers were wounded Sunday when Israeli forces launched a missile into Syrian territory in response to two instances of gunfire, officials said.

Gunfire coming from Syrian border hit an Israeli military Jeep Saturday during a routine patrol of the Golan Heights, Haaretz reported. A second round of gunfire from Syria hit the same area in Israel Sunday morning.

No Israelis were injured in either incident.

Officials said it was unclear if the Israeli military was the target of the gunfire or if the bullets were strays from rebel and military fighting in Syria.

In either instance, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said he viewed the gunfire as a "severe" incident.

"We view the fire from Syria last night and this morning at [Israel Defense Forces] troops in Israeli territory as severe. The IDF [Israeli Defense Force] responded in accordance with government policy: Every breach of Israeli sovereignty and each firing from the Syrian side will be met with an immediate response to silence the source of fire as we identify them. We see the Syrian regime as being responsible for every violation of our sovereignty," a statement from his office said.

The Golan Heights is an Israeli-controlled region near the border with Syria. The United Nations has patrolled the area since a cease-fire ended the 1973 October War.

Some Israelis are concerned Syrian infighting may disrupt the relative calm in Golan Heights maintained for the past four decades, The Jerusalem Post reported.


Kerry in Iraq on Iran arms to Syria

BAGHDAD, March 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday landed in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, officials said.

During his trip Kerry is expected to ask Maliki to stop Iranian arms from reaching Syria, The New York Times reported.

"He will be very direct with Prime Minister Maliki about the importance of stopping the Iranian overflights and the transits across the territory or, at a minimum, inspecting each of the flights," said a U.S. official on the condition of anonymity.

An air corridor over Iraq has become a main way that Iran, a supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been getting arms into Syria, American intelligence officials said.

Kerry's trip to Iraq is the first by a U.S. secretary of state since Hilary Clinton traveled there in 2009, The Washington Post reported.

Since he landed in Baghdad, Kerry has suggested Maliki do more to appease Sunnis in the Shiite-ruled country. Sunnis in Iraq have staged protests in recent months over their political and societal marginalization. U.S. officials have expressed concern that Sunnis may rise up in an armed protest.


Berezovsky home cleared by hazmat team

LONDON, March 24 (UPI) -- British authorities said the home of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky was cleared by hazardous materials experts following his unexplained death.

Specialists in nuclear, chemical and biological hazards checked the estate in Berkshire for potential threats as part of the ongoing investigation into the tycoon's death.

Berezovsky, 67, was a one-time power broker in Russia who fled the country in 2000 after a falling out with Vladimir Putin. He was later convicted in absentia of embezzling $2 billion from two state-run companies in Russia, the British newspaper The Guardian said Sunday.

The Guardian said there were unconfirmed reports the death was a suicide. The newspaper said police have not said if there were signs of foul play inside the mansion.

Acquaintances told reporters Berezovsky had been depressed recently about personal relationships and an expensive court battle with fellow Russian mogul Roman Abramovich, the owner of Britain's Chelsea soccer club.


Pope Francis to visit Brazil in July

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 24 (UPI) -- Pope Francis announced during his Palm Sunday homily at St. Peter's Square he plans to visit Brazil in July for a Catholic youth celebration.

The Catholic Church's first Latin American leader spoke of his first schedule trip to that continent, saying "I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro."

The festival is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from around the world. The pope will say Mass on Copacabana beach and pray at the Christ the Redeemer statue, the BBC reported.

"Prepare well -- prepare spiritually above all -- in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world," Francis said during Sunday's homily. "Young people need to tell the world: 'It is good to follow Jesus, it is good to go with Jesus, the message of Jesus is good, it is good to come out of ourselves, from the edges of existence of the world and to bring Jesus to others!' "

Sunday launched the start of Holy Week, the most important week on the Christian calendar. Already Pope Francis has eschewed the traditions of his predecessors by planning to visit a prison for young offenders Thursday in a Roman suburb where he will wash the feet of 12 young prisoners, the BBC reported.

Previous popes performed the task in the Roman cathedral of Saint John Lateran, washing the feet of priests symbolizing the 12 apostles.

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