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Middle East

In his first foreign trip as president, Donald Trump will be traveling to a Muslim country on Friday. Not just any Muslim state, but the one with the holiest shrines in Islam.

Saudi Arabia is a place that candidate Trump loved to bash during his campaign.

"Until the oil went down, Saudi Arabia was making a billion dollars a day. We protect them. We protect them. And we protect them for peanuts. So all of that stuff is going to change folks," Trump said last year.

Gunmen dressed as medical staff stormed a military hospital in Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing at least 30 people and injuring dozens more in a raid that lasted hours. In a statement published on the Islamic State-affiliated Aamaq news agency, the militant group claimed responsibility for the assault in the Afghan capital.

The attack on Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital ended midafternoon local time, after several hours of floor-by-floor clashes with Afghan security forces left all four attackers dead, according to Gen. Dawlat Waziri, an Afghan defense ministry spokesman.

Less than 24 hours after reports of their detention emerged, 10 U.S. Navy personnel have been freed by Iran. The sailors left an Iranian naval base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday morning, along with the boats they were operating when they were taken into custody.

"There are no indications that the sailors were harmed during their brief detention," the Department of Defense says, confirming the release of nine men and one woman.

The photo of a 3-year-old child named Aylan Kurdi, face-down on a Turkish beach, has become emblematic of the suffering of refugees fleeing Syria's civil war.

It's a historic day in Saudi Arabia, where officials are touting municipal elections in which women are not only voting for the first time, but also standing for office. But if they want to cast a vote, they'll have to catch a ride: the kingdom still forbids women from driving.

The elections are for nearly 300 local councils. The official Saudi news agency says polling stations are reporting a large turnout, and a smooth voting process.

From Jeddah, NPR's Deborah Amos reports:

Lea Hatouni is like a lot of other teenagers around the world. She likes music and hanging out with her friends. Her favorite band is the British rock band Coldplay. When she has free time she stops by the snack shop where her brother, Kenny works. "I talk to Kenny. We laugh and put on music. We start to dance and doing crazy stuff," she laughs.

And she loves to paint her fingernails her favorite color-- dark blue.

Like any teen, she has big dreams.

Tempers were bound to fray, with tens of thousands of migrants and refugees out in the cold, trying to walk through Europe.

Two Palestinians armed with a gun and a knife boarded a bus in Jerusalem last week, and killed two Israelis and injured about 15 other passengers.

The attack took place just 200 feet from the Eitan School, an elementary school with a Jewish religious curriculum. One parent had almost boarded that bus, but at the last minute, his wife Rebecca Amar told him to take the car.

"It was like a miracle that he didn't take the bus, because [the attack] could happen when he was on the bus," Amar said.

Thursday was one of the most important days of Hillary Clinton's political career. The Democratic presidential candidate faced grilling for more than eight hours over the 2012 terror attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The questions from the 12 House Select Committee members — seven Republicans and five Democrats — split mostly along partisan lines.

The 20-year-old activist who died trying to help rebuild a city

Jul 21, 2015
Hatice Ezgi Sadet's Instagram.

Before she was killed by a suicide bomber, before her Instagram photos were shared and liked by thousands, Hatice Ezgi Sadet was a 20-year-old art history student from Turkey looking forward to going on an archeological excavation trip and using her newly obtained driver’s license.

Early one morning a couple of weeks ago, rheumatologist Anas Muhana got into his 2008 tan Mercedes jeep, turned on the ignition and drove from his home in Ramallah to his work at Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

It was the first time he had been allowed to do this in 15 years.

Muhana is Palestinian. His car has a green and white Palestinian license plate. And in 2000, at the start of the second intifada, Israel stopped allowing cars with Palestinian plates to cross checkpoints from the West Bank.

Christopher Catrambone, a wealthy businessman from Lake Charles, La., docks his boat these days in Malta, the Mediterranean island he now calls home. That boat, called the Phoenix, has been getting outfitted for a series of trips set to begin in May.

But Catrambone and his crew don't intend to use the Phoenix for luxury cruises. He and his Italian wife, Regina, invested about $8 million of their own money to buy the ship and hire a crew for an entirely different purpose: to save lives at sea.

Joel Migdal's book "Shifting Sands."

Steve Scher talks to University of Washington professor Joel Migdal about his new book "Shifting Sands: The United States and The Middle East."

A Biography Of The Prophet Muhammad

Feb 3, 2014
Lesley Hazelton's book "The First Muslim."

Steve Scher sits down with writer Leslie Hazelton to talk about her book, "The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad."

This interview originally aired on January 24, 2013.

Flickr Photo/FreedomHouse

Marcie Sillman interviews Thanassis Cambanis about his reasons for optimism in the Middle East despite the crackdowns by repressive regimes following the Arab Spring.

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